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Publication - FOI / EIR Release

Advice on unconventional oil and gas extraction: FOI release

Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.

FOI reference: FOI/17/02371
Date received: 12 October 2017
Date responded: 15 November 2017

Information requested

Information about all scientific advice sought and received by the government, from its scientific advisers, regarding its decision over whether to ban or allow unconventional oil and gas extraction, including correspondence between the Scottish Government and Sheila Rowan, the chief scientific adviser, any other scientific advisers for government departments, and the Scottish Science Advisory Council, and including advice around the process of coming to a decision - for example the treatment of consultation responses; in the period 28 January 2015 to 12 October 2017.

Response

As the information you have requested is 'environmental information' for the purposes of the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004 (EIRs), we are required to deal with your request under those Regulations. We are applying the exemption at section 39(2) of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA), so that we do not also have to deal with your request under FOISA.

This exemption is subject to the 'public interest test'. Therefore, taking account of all the circumstances of this case, we have considered if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exemption, because there is no public interest in dealing with the same request under two different regimes. This is essentially a technical point and has no material effect on the outcome of your request.

I enclose a copy of most of the information you requested.

While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance we are unable to provide some of the information you have requested because exceptions under Regulations 10(4)(e) (internal communications) and 11(2) (personal data of a third party) of the EIRs apply to that information. The reasons why those exceptions apply are below.

Reasons for not providing information

An exception applies.

An exception under regulation 11(2) of the EIRs (personal information) applies to some of the information requested because it is personal data of a third party (names and contact details of officials) and disclosing it would contravene the data protection principles in Schedule 1 to the Data Protection Act 1998. This exception is not subject to the "public interest test", so we are not required to consider if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exception.

Exceptions apply subject to the public interest test

An exception under regulation 10(4)(e) (internal communications) of the EIRs applies to some of the information you have requested, because it relates to correspondence between officials and Ministerial briefings.

This exception is subject to the 'public interest test'. Therefore, taking account of all the circumstances of this case, we have considered if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exception. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exception. We recognise that there is some public interest in release because of the public interest in the topic involved. However, this is outweighed by the public interest in ensuring a private space in which officials can offer their opinions and provide free and frank advice to Ministers and other officials in briefings and correspondence.

About FOI

The Scottish Government is committed to publishing all information released in response to Freedom of Information requests. View all FOI responses at http://www.gov.scot/foi-responses

Contact

Please quote the FOI reference

Central Enquiry Unit
Email: ceu@gov.scot
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
Regent Road
Edinburgh
EH1 3DG

Published:
17 Nov 2017
Advice on unconventional oil and gas extraction: FOI release