FOI reference: FOI/17/02551
Date received: 26 October 2017
Date responded: 22 November 2017
Any information (documents, meetings, correspondence, minutes of meetings, emails, briefs, notes or otherwise) regarding Nicola Sturgeon statement on 30 June in the Scottish parliament that 'To answer Iain Gray directly, we have instructed officials to begin planning for the appointment of a new panel member, with that process taking place over the summer. Information should include any correspondence regarding the instruction to officials. Information should also include any shortlists, any suggestions from the inquiry team, anyone considered as a panel member and the date when the appointment of a new panel member was first mentioned and actioned.
I have provided some of the information you have 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 exemptions under sections 30(b)(i) free and frank provision of advice and 30(b)(ii) free and frank exchange of views of FOISA applies to that information. The reasons why these exemptions apply are explained below.
You may wish to know that the Deputy First Minister gave a statement to Parliament on the 16 November 2016 which provided information regarding the decision not to appoint a replacement panel member. The statement can be found in the parliament website at http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/report.aspx?r=10630.
Reasons for not providing information
Exemptions under sections 30(b)(i) free and frank provision of advice and 30(b)(ii) free and frank exchange of views.
Exemptions under sections 30(b)(i) and 30(b)(ii) of FOISA (free and frank advice and exchange of views) apply to the information requested. These exemptions apply because disclosure would, or would be likely to, inhibit substantially the free and frank provision of advice and exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation. The exemptions recognise the need for Ministers to have a private space within which to seek advice and views from officials before reaching the settled public view.
Disclosing the content of free and frank advice on matters surrounding the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry will substantially inhibit the provision of such advice in the future, particularly because these discussions relate to a sensitive issue regarding the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry.
These exemptions are 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 Ministerial duties and responsibilities that are set out in the Inquiries Act 2005 which the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry is established under. 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 is 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