FOI reference: FOI/17/03004
Date received: 13 December 2017
Date responded: 10 Janaury 2018
All correspondence between Scottish government officials regarding requested changes or observations to the first report from the commissioner of widening access, published today (December 13);
This should include any requests for revisions or comments on draft versions of the report, and any responses.
I enclose a copy of some of the information you requested. As you will see, the report was written by the Commissioner for Fair Access and exchanges between Scottish Government officials related primarily to advice and views regarding the structure, format and accuracy of the report.
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 exemption(s) 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 apply to that information. The reasons why these exemptions apply are explained below.
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 for the purposes of deliberation) of FOISA apply to some of the information requested. These exemptions apply because disclosure would, or would be likely to, inhibit substantially the free and frank provision of advice and the free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation. These exemptions recognise the need for officials to have a private space within which to provide free and frank advice to other officials and to discuss and explore options before the Scottish Government reaches a settled public view. Disclosing the content of free and frank advice and discussions on the Commissioner for Fair Access's first annual report would substantially inhibit the discussions and provision of such advice in the future, particularly because officials would be reluctant to provide their views fully and frankly if they believe that those views are likely to be made public.
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 other officials and hold free and frank discussions as part of the process of exploring and refining the Government's position on the Commissioner for Fair Access's annual report, until the Government as a whole can adopt a decision 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, such as that exchanged by officials regarding draft versions of the Commissioner for Fair Access's annual report, so that good policy decisions can be taken. Premature disclosure is likely to undermine the full and frank discussion of issues between 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