FOI reference: FOI/17/02775
Date received: 14 November 2017
Date responded: 13 December 2017
All correspondence between the Scottish Government and the National Audit Office about the report into income tax that was given to press on 13 November 2017, and due to be published on 14 November 2017?
Could you also release all internal Scottish Government correspondence about the report?
Whenever possible it is our aim is to provide information, however, in this instance we are unable to provide all the information you have requested because an exemption under section 30(b)(i and ii) of FOISA applies to that information. The reasons why these exemptions apply are explained below.
You may be already aware that the NAO published their final report on 27 November and can be found at https://www.nao.org.uk/report/scottish-rate-of-income-tax-2016-17/ which includes a press release stating:
"An earlier copy of this report was shared under embargo with media outlets on the 13 November for publication on 14 November. Unfortunately that version contained an overestimate of the number of Scottish taxpayers who earn above the higher rate income tax threshold and subsequently the number of people that would pay the basic rate of income tax if they were not Scottish taxpayers. The NAO identified this at a late stage and immediately took the decision to postpone the report's publication."
Reasons for not providing information
An exemption under section 30(b)(i) of FOISA (free and frank provision of advice) and section 30(b)(ii) of FOISA (free and frank exchange of views) 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 also recognises the need for Ministers and officials to have a private space within which to discuss and explore different issues.
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. Ultimately the Scottish Government's position on the draft NAO report which was not published is clear and a matter of public record through press comments, however, the discussions that led to this position should remain privileged information as a result of protecting the space in which Minister, Special Advisers and policy officials can discuss an issue as it occurs.
It is also the case that there should be privileged space in which the NAO and Scottish Government officials can discuss issues freely and without the requirement to release these thoughts. Without this space to discuss issues then there may be a risk to the quality of a final report that the NAO can publish.
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