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Publication - FOI/EIR release

Correspondence on rate rises following draft budget communication: FOI release

Published: 12 Dec 2017

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

Published:
12 Dec 2017
Correspondence on rate rises following draft budget communication: FOI release

FOI reference: FOI/17/02512
Date received: 8 November 2017
Date responded: 8 December 2017

Information requested

1) internal correspondence and briefings between Ministers and civil servants on the announcement of the rate relief measures by Derek Mackay here:Boost for business with rates support

2) for copies of the correspondence or an evaluation of all the correspondence received from business and local government from the date of the draft budget to this announcement and for civil servant and ministerial commentary on this correspondence.

Response

(PART 1) "internal correspondence and briefings between Ministers and civil servants on the announcement of the rate relief measures by Derek Mackay"

(i) An exemption under section 29(1)(a) of FOISA (formulation or development of government policy) applies to some of the information requested because it relates to the formulation of the Scottish Government's policy on non-domestic rates transitional relief measures.

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. Release of these papers will impact on discussions on future years non-domestic rates transitional relief policy and future Budget processes.

(ii) 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 Ministers before the Scottish Government reaches a settled public view. Disclosing the content of free and frank advice on non-domestic rates transitional relief will substantially inhibit the provision of such advice in the future, particularly because these discussions are still on-going and future years decisions have not been taken

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 as part of the process of exploring and refining the Government's policy position on non-domestic rates transitional relief until the Government as a whole can adopt a policy that is sound and likely to be effective.

This private thinking space is essential to enable all options to be properly considered, based on the best available advice, so that good policy decisions can be taken. 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.

(PART 2) "for copies of the correspondence or an evaluation of all the correspondence received from business and local government from the date of the draft budget to this announcement and for civil servant and ministerial commentary on this correspondence."

In summary, the Scottish Government received 115 pieces of correspondence on rates rises during the dates specified in your request, 15th December 2016 (date of draft budget) to 21st February 2017 (announcement by Mr Mackay). Of those 115 cases, there were 114 pieces of correspondence from the business community and 1 piece of correspondence was from Local Government. There were 0 pieces of correspondence received during these dates from charities. As agreed we would provide a summary and you can consider whether you wished to see some of the correspondence on request.

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