FOI reference: FOI/18/00147
Date received: 18 January 2018
Date responded: 15 February 2018
The following information:
1. Can you please provide information regarding all monies, including grants, paid by Scottish Government to members of Scottish Environment Link between the beginning of 2005 to the end of 2017? These should include amounts paid, the organisation's name and the reason for the funding being given.
2. If these payments include payments for Framework Agreements, Framework Grants or Local Area Frameworks, please provide information as to what these Framework Agreements, Grants or Local Area Frameworks entail ie: what specific work is carried out under these framework agreements to justify the public funding of them.
As the information you have requested is 'environmental information' for the purposes of the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004 (EIRs), we are required to deal with your request under those Regulations. We are applying the exemption at section 39(2) of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA), so that we do not also have to deal with your request under FOISA.
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, because there is no public interest in dealing with the same request under two different regimes. This is essentially a technical point and has no material effect on the outcome of your request.
I enclose a copy of some of the information you requested (Part 1 of your question) in Excel format. For the purposes of your request we have used the current list of 38 member organisations available on the Scottish Environment LINK website at: http://www.scotlink.org/about/link-member-organisations/
All payments identified as having been made to one of these organisations between 1 January 2005 and 31 December 2017 inclusive, are listed in the enclosed spreadsheet along with the reason for the payment being made, where this was available. While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, under the exception at regulation 10(4)(b) of the EIRs a public authority may refuse a request for information if it is 'manifestly unreasonable'. The Scottish Information Commissioner's guidance on the regulation 10(4)(b) exception at: http://www.itspublicknowledge.info/Law/EIRs/EIRsExceptions.aspx says that there may "be instances where it is appropriate for the Commissioner to consider the proportionality of the burden on the public authority in terms of the costs and resources involved in dealing with a request when considering the application of this exception".
In this case, identifying and locating information to answer Part 2 of your question, i.e. which of these payments related to framework agreements etc. and what specific work was carried out under them, would require a Scottish Government-wide search of electronic and paper records, covering many different policy areas. Due to the number of payments within the scope of your request, we believe the time and cost involved in obtaining this information would be excessive. For these reasons, we consider that this part of your request is manifestly unreasonable and so we are refusing it under regulation 10(4)(b).
As the exception is conditional we have applied the 'public interest test'. This means we have, in all the circumstances of this case, considered if the public interest in disclosing information outweighs the public interest in applying the exception. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exception. While we recognise that there may be some public interest in this information, this is outweighed by the public interest in ensuring the efficient and effective use of public resources by not incurring excessive costs when complying with information requests.
You may however wish to consider reducing the scope of your request in order to make it manageable, for example by requesting further information on a smaller number of specific payments (as listed in the attached spreadsheet) that you are particularly interested in. You may also find it helpful to look at the Scottish Information Commissioner's 'Tips for requesting information under FOI and the EIRs' on his website at: http://www.itspublicknowledge.info/YourRights/Tipsforrequesters.aspx.
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