FOI reference: FOI/17/02478
Date received: 19 October 2017
Date responded: 20 November 2017
Any correspondence, physical or digital, along with any record or minutes of meetings concerning or occurring during Michael Russell MSP's April, 2017 trip to Brussels.
The Minister for UK Negotiations on Scotland's Place in Europe, Michael Russell, was in Brussels on 26 April to give the keynote speech at a high level roundtable lunch on 'Perspectives on Brexit' which was hosted by Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Policy Centre and ex-President of the European Council. In addition, Mr Russell met a group of MEPs from the Socialists & Democrats group in the European Parliament and met with Scottish seafood producers at the European Seafood Exposition, announcing that Seafood Scotland had been awarded £0.9 million of EU funding to promote and showcase Scottish produce at key trade shows over the next 12 months.
I enclose a copy of some of the information you requested. While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance we are unable to provide all the information you have requested because the Scottish government does not hold all of this information, there are also exemptions that apply under sections 30 (b) (i) free and frank provision of advice of FOISA applies to that information. The reasons why those exemptions apply are explained below.
Reasons for not providing information
The Scottish Government does not have the information.
The Scottish Government does not have some of the information you have asked for because there were no minutes of the minutes recorded. This is a formal notice under section 17 (1) of FOISA that the Scottish Government does not have the information you have requested.
1. An exemption under section 30 (b)(i) of FOISA (free and frank provision of advice) 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. This exemption recognises the need for officials to have a private space within which to provide free and frank advice to the Minister before the Scottish Government reaches a settled public view. Disclosing the content of free and frank advice on Scotland's Place in Europe following the UK's Decision to leave the European Union will substantially inhibit the provision of such advice 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 heave 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 to Ministers as part of the process of exploring and refining the Government's position on Scotland's Place in Europe until the Government as a whole can adopt a decision that is sound and likely to be affective. This private thinking space is essential to enable all options to be properly considered, based on the best available advice, so that good decisions can be taken. Premature disclosure if likely to undermine the full and frank discussion of issues between Ministers and officials, which in turn will undermine the quality of the decision making process, which would not be in the public interest.
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
Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Phone: 0300 244 4000
The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House