beta

You're viewing our new website - find out more

Publication - FOI / EIR Release

Future farm payment model post Brexit: FOI release

Published: 7 Feb 2018

Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.

FOI reference: FOI/18/00046
Date received: 8 January 2018
Date responded: 5 February 2018

Information requested

  • Email correspondence between Fergus Ewing and Scottish Government Officials relating to the announcement by Michael Gove at the Oxford Farming Conference 2018 relating to the future of farm payments;

  • email correspondence between Fergus Ewing and Scottish Government Officials relating to a plan outlining a future farm payment model post-Brexit; and

  • documentation outlining plans for a future farm payment model post Brexit.

Response

Please find attached four documents relating to the information you have requested.

While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance we are unable to provide some of the information you have requested on emailcorrespondence between Fergus Ewing and Scottish Government Officials relating to Michael Gove's speech at the Oxford Farming Conference 2018 relating to the future of farm payments because exemptions under section 28(1) (relations within the UK), sections 30(b)(i) and (ii) (free and frank provision of advice), section 30(c) (prejudice to effective conduct of public affairs), and section 38(1)(b) (personal data of a third party) of FOISA apply to that information. The reasons why these exemptions apply are explained below.

We are unable to provide the information you have requested on plans for a future farm payment model post-Brexit. There is a lack of clarity from the UK Government regarding the guarantee of funding to replace EU funding for farming, therefore no modelling can yet be carried out by the Scottish Government. Annex A explains this in more detail.

Reasons for not providing information

The Scottish Government does not have the information.

This is a formal notice under section 17(1) of FOISA that the Scottish Government does not have the information you have requested in relation to:

  • Email correspondence between Fergus Ewing and Scottish Government officials relating to a plan outlining a future farm payment model post-Brexit

  • Documentation outlining plans for a future farm payment model post-Brexit

We are unable to provide the information you have requested on plans for a future farm payment model post-Brexit. There is a lack of clarity from the UK Government regarding the guarantee of funding to replace EU funding for farming, therefore no modelling can yet be carried out by the Scottish Government.

Work is underway within the Scottish Government to develop a future agriculture strategy in light of the UK Government's decision to exit the EU. You may wish to refer to the recent interim discussion document detailing the Scottish Agricultural Champions' emerging thinking on potential ideas for a future agricultural strategy. The document is available at

https://beta.gov.scot/publications/interim-discussion-document-scottish-governments-agriculture-champions/

An exemption applies.

An exemption under section 38(1)(b) of FOISA (personal information) applies to some 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.

Exemptions apply, subject to the public interest test.

Section 28(1).

An exemption under section 28(1) of FOISA (relations within the UK) applies to some of the information requested. This exemption applies because disclosure would, or would be likely to, prejudice substantially relations between the Scottish Government and the UK Government. It is essential for the effective administration of the UK as a whole that there should be regular, and often private, communications between the Scottish Government, the UK Government and the other devolved administrations.Disclosure of this information will mean that the UK Government is likely to be more reluctant to communicate as frequently and openly with the Scottish Government in future.

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 maintaining close working relationships between the Scottish Government and the UK Government, and in protecting the free exchange of information between the administrations to ensure that we keep each other fully and regularly informed about matters of mutual interest. There is no public interest in disclosing information when that will damage relationships and disrupt future communications.

Sections 30(b)(i) and 30(b)(ii).

Exemptions under sections 30(b)(i) and 30(b)(ii) of FOISA (free and frank advice and exchange of views) apply to some of the information requested.

These exemptions relate to several documents between officials and Ministers. These documents relate to 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. Disclosing some of the content of free and frank briefing material on the statement by Michael Gove at the Oxford Farming Conference 2018 relating to the future of farm payments will substantially inhibit such briefing in the future, particularly because discussions on the issue are still ongoing and these discussions relate to a sensitive or controversial issue relating to the UK Government's decision to exit the EU.

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 a private space within which officials can provide free and frank advice and views to Ministers on such matters. It is clearly in the public interest that Ministers can properly consider the implications of UK Government statements in order to develop clear lines to take. They need full and candid advice from officials to enable them to do so. Premature disclosure of this type of information could lead to a reduction in the comprehensiveness and frankness of such advice and views in the future, which would not be in the public interest.

Section 30(C).

An exemption under section 30(c) of FOISA applies to some of the information you have requested. This exemption relates to several documents between officials and Ministers. These documents relate to the ability to effectively conduct public affairs.

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.

You may wish to refer to public comments made by Mr Ewing on 4 January 2018, in relation to Mr Gove's Oxford Farming Conference 2018 speech. These are in the public domain, including in the Herald Scotland and on the BBC News website - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-42559845

About FOI

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

Contact

Please quote the FOI reference

Central Enquiry Unit
Email: ceu@gov.scot
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
Regent Road
Edinburgh
EH1 3DG

Published:
7 Feb 2018
Future farm payment model post Brexit: FOI release