FOI reference: FOI/17/02925
Date received: 4 December 2017
Date responded: 20 December 2017
On the matter of the Independent Review of Student Support, you asked for:
The total costs associated with the review, including itemised breakdowns
Any drafts circulated either to external stakeholders or the Scottish Government (staff, ministers etc)
Confirmation of the total number of Scottish Government staff allocated to work on the review (please confirm whether these staff were working exclusively on the review, the period of their work and whether staff members concerned are full time or part time)
I attach a copy of most of the information you have requested at Annex A.
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 s.27(1) (information intended for future publication), and s.30(b)(ii) (free and frank exchange of views) of FOISA applies to that information. The reasons why that exemptions applies are explained below.
Reasons for not providing information
Section 27(1) – information intended for future publication.
An exemption under section 27(1) of FOISA applies to this section of information requested because we intended to publish that information on 20th November 2017 which is within 12 weeks of the date of your request.
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 some public interest in release, however this was met by our planned publication.
An exemption under section 30(b)(ii) of FOISA (free and frank exchange of views) also applies to this section of the information requested. This exemption applies because disclosure would, or would be likely to, inhibit substantially the free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation. This exemption recognises the need for officials to have a private space within which to discuss issues and options with external stakeholders before the Scottish Government reaches a settled public view. Disclosing the content of these discussions with Jayne-Anne Gadhia (independent Chair of the Review of Student Support), and Student Support Review Board members will substantially inhibit such discussions in the future, because these stakeholders will be reluctant to provide their views fully and frankly if they believe that those views are likely to be made public.
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 Ministers and officials a private space within which to communicate with appropriate external stakeholders. This private space is essential to enable all options to be properly considered, so that good policy decisions can be taken based on fully informed advice and evidence. There is also an important public interest in avoiding the loss of stakeholder confidence in cases where they thought they were providing comments in confidence, which would be inevitable if an individual's contribution was released against their wishes.
Confirmation of the total number of Scottish Government staff allocated to work on the review (please confirm whether these staff were working exclusively on the review, the period of their work and whether staff members concerned are full time or part time).
Since inception of the Review, two full-time members of staff were working exclusively to support the independent Review, acting as secretariat support. Alongside this, there has been up to ten members of Scottish Government staff supporting the Review, at any one time, for up to 50% of their time. This was alongside their standard contracted job with those staff members providing policy, financial or analytical expertise.
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