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Publication - FOI / EIR Release

Scottish National Investment Bank correspondence and briefing papers: FOI release

Published: 20 Nov 2017

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

FOI reference: FOI/17/02387
Date received: 24 October 2017
Date responded: 17 November 2017

Information requested

You asked for briefings produced by civil servants to Scottish Government Ministers on a Scottish National Investment Bank; for any internal correspondence between Scottish Government Ministers and civil servants on a Scottish National Investment Bank; for any correspondence between the Scottish Government and other political parties and think tanks on a Scottish National Investment Bank and for correspondence between the Scottish Government and HMT on a Scottish National Investment Bank.

Response

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 exemptions under sections S.29(1)(a) Formulation or Development of Scottish Government Policy, S.30(b)(i) Free and Frank Provision of Advice and S.30(b)(ii) Free and Frank Exchange of Views of FOISA applies to that information. The reasons why these exemptions applies are explained in the bottom of this letter. The releasable information from your request is included in Annex B.

Reasons for not providing information

An exemption under section 29(1)(a) Formulation or Development of Scottish Government Policy of FOISA applies to some of the information you have requested because it relates to the formulation of the Scottish Government's policy on Scottish National Investment Bank.

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. We recognise that there is a public interest in disclosing information as part of open, transparent and accountable government, and to inform public debate. However, there is a greater public interest in high quality policy and decision-making, and in the properly considered implementation and development of policies and decisions. This means that Ministers and officials need to be able to consider all available options and to debate those rigorously, to fully understand their possible implications. Their candor in doing so will be affected by their assessment of whether the discussions on the Scottish National Investment Bank will be disclosed in the near future, when it may undermine or constrain the Government's view on that policy while it is still under discussion and development.

An exemption under section 30(b)(i) (free and frank provision of advice) and section 30(b)(ii) (free and frank exchange of views) applies to some of the information requested. This exemption applies because disclosure would, or would be likely to, inhibit substantially the free and frank provision of advice or views. This exemption recognises the need for Ministers and officials to have a private space within which to discuss and explore options before the Scottish Government reaches a settled public view. Disclosing the content of free and frank discussions or advice on the Scottish National Investment Bank will substantially inhibit these in the future, particularly because these discussions are still ongoing.

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. We recognise that there is a public interest in disclosing information as part of open, transparent and accountable government, and to inform public debate. However, there is a greater public interest in allowing a private space within which officials can provide full and frank advice and views to Ministers and other officials, as part of the process of exploring and refining the Government's policy position on the Scottish National Investment Bank to which this advice relates. This private thinking space is essential to enable all options to be properly considered, based on the best available advice. Premature disclosure is likely to undermine the full and frank discussion of issues between Ministers and officials, which in turn will undermine the quality of the policy making process, which would not be in the public interest.

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:
20 Nov 2017
Scottish National Investment Bank correspondence and briefing papers: FOI release