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Publication - FOI / EIR Release

Scottish Business Development Bank correspondence and information: FOI release

Published: 23 Nov 2017

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

FOI reference: FOI/17/02510
Date received: 24 October 2017
Date responded: 21 November 2017

Information requested

You asked for the briefings, policy papers and correspondence between ministers and civil servants on a Scottish National Investment Bank; the total amount of loans and grants given out by the Scottish Investment Bank in each year since its creation and for the briefings, policy papers and correspondence between ministers and civil servants on a Scottish Business Development 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 an exemption(s) under section(s) S.14(2) (repeated requests) of FOISA applies to that information, S.30(b)(i) (Free and Frank Provision of Advice) and S.29(1)(a) (Formulation or Development of Scottish Government Policy). The reasons why that exemption(s) applies are explained below. It should be noted that the scope of the response for the Scottish Business Development Bank covers the period January 2015 – March 2016.

While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance the Scottish Government does not have some of the information you have requested. However, you may wish to contact Scottish Enterprise at enquiries@scotent.co.uk who may be able to help you. The reasons why we don't have the information are explained below.

Documents attached:

Title Detail File Type Size
Annex A Correspondence and information regarding Business Development Bank PDF 241KB
Annex B Dr Lena Wilson CBE letter to John Swinney, 10 March 2016 PDF 1.8MB
Annex C John Swinney letter to Dr Lena Wilson CBE, 22 March 2016 PDF 1.8MB

Reasons for not providing information

The Scottish Government does not have the information:

You asked for "the total amount of loans and grants given out by the Scottish Investment Bank in each year since its creation". I refer you to the response for FOI/17/02124 in which it was highlighted that the Scottish Government does not have the information you have asked for because The Scottish Investment Bank is a division of Scottish Enterprise. As such, the loans and grants given out by The Scottish Investment Bank is a matter for Scottish Enterprise, they can be contacted on the email provided above. In addition Scottish Enterprise were involved in the Scottish Business Development Bank and may have further information on this topic.

This is a formal notice under section 17(1) of FOISA that the Scottish Government does not have the information you have requested.

An exemption applies, subject to the public interest test:

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 the Scottish Business Development 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 candour in doing so will be affected by their assessment of whether the discussions on the Scottish Business Development Bank will be disclosed in the near future, when it may undermine or constrain the Government's view on that and related policies.

An exemption under section 30(b)(i) (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 future advice. 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 advice on the Scottish Business Development 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 to Ministers and other officials, as part of the process of exploring and refining the Government's policy positions. 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.

While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, under section 14(2) of FOISA a public authority is not required to comply with a request for information if it is identical or substantially similar to a request which it has already complied with, unless a reasonable amount of time has elapsed between the two requests. This request is substantially similar to your previous request which we complied with on 17/11/2017. The Scottish Information Commissioner's guidance on repeated requests atScottish Commissioner's Guidance says that in considering whether a reasonable period of time has elapsed between the previous request and the new request, there are two questions which will help the authority:

(i) has the information changed? (ii)have the circumstances changed?

In this case, the information we hold is the same as at the time of your previous request. We have also considered the circumstances and have concluded that there has been no significant change. For these reasons, we consider that your request is repeated and we are not obliged to comply with it.

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:
23 Nov 2017
Scottish Business Development Bank correspondence and information: FOI release