FOI reference: FOI/17/02612
Date received: 26 October 2017
Date responded: 23 November 2017
Copies of all correspondence including but not limited to emails, notes of telephone calls and other communications by Scottish government employees that mentions George Chaponda, former foreign minister of Malawi, between 01 November 2015 and 01 November 2017.
I enclose a copy of most of the information you requested in the format you asked for.
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 for the purposes of deliberation) of FOISA applies to that information. The reasons why this exemption applies are explained below.
An exemption under section 38(1)(b) of FOISA (personal information) applies to a small amount of the information requested because it is personal data of a third party (i.e. names and contact details of individuals) and disclosing it 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.
Reasons for not providing information
Section 30(b)(i) – free and frank provision of advice and Section 30(b)(ii) – free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation Exemptions under sections 30(b)(i) of FOISA (free and frank provision of advice) and 30(b)(ii) (free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation) apply to some of the information requested. These exemptions apply because disclosure would, or would be likely to, inhibit substantially the free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation, and the provision of advice. These exemptions recognise the need for officials to have a private space within which to discuss and explore options and provide free and frank advice to Ministers, before the Scottish Government reaches a settled public view. Disclosing elements of the content of free and frank discussions and advice on the Scottish Government's international relations will substantially inhibit such discussions and the provision of advice in the future.
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 exemptions. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exemptions. 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 Ministers and officials a private space within which to explore and refine the Government's relations with other countries, 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 international development 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.
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