FOI reference: FOI/17/02540
Date received: 19 October 2017
Date responded: 23 November 2017
- Any correspondence, physical or digital, along with any record or minutes of meetings concerning or occurring during Jamie Hepburn's January, 2017 trip to Brussels
A response to your request was due on 16 November 2017. Apologies for the delay in responding to your request. I enclose a copy of some of the information you requested at Annex B.
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 of exemptions under s.32(1)(a)(i) (substantial prejudice to international relations) and s.38(1)(b) (personal information) of FOISA apply to that information. The reasons why these exemptions apply are explained below.
Reasons for not providing information
An exemption applies, subject to the public interest test.
An exemption under section 32(1)(a)(i) (substantial prejudice to international relations) of FOISA applies to some of the information you have requested.
This exemption applies because disclosure would, or would be likely to, prejudice substantially relations between the UK and Belgium. The effective conduct of international relations depends on maintaining trust and confidence between the UK Government and other States. In this case, the information was exchanged on the understanding that it would be treated in confidence. If the Scottish Government does not respect this confidence, the UK Government's relations with other States and its ability to protect and promote UK interests will be substantially prejudiced. States, such as Belgium, are likely to be more reluctant to share sensitive information with Scotland or other parts of the UK in the future, which would reduce both the frequency and openness of communications with the UK.
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 maintaining positive international relations as part of the process of exploring and developing the Government's relationship with Belgium.
An exemption applies.
An exemption under section 38(1)(b) (personal data) of FOISA applies to some of the information you have requested which has been redacted. This relates to individuals' names and contact details. It is exempt from release because it is personal data and its release would contravene the data protection principles in Schedule 1 to the Data Protection Act 1998.
This exemption 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 exemption.
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