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Publication - FOI / EIR Release

Police Scotland Chief Constable's leave of absence: FOI release

Published: 26 Mar 2018

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

FOI reference: FOI/18/00276
Date received: 29 January 2018
Date responded: 22 March 2018

Information requested

As clarified on 2 February, your request seeks:

A record of any face-to-face meeting, phone call etc. on the involving Ministers and SG Officials and representatives of the SPA on the subject of Phil Gormley, Chief Constable, since June 2017.

Response

I have enclosed some of the information you have requested. However, we are unable to provide some of the information identified because exemptions under section 36(1) (confidentiality in legal proceedings), 30(b)(i) (free and frank advice) and 30(c) (substantial prejudice to the effective conduct of public affairs) of FOISA apply to that information. The reasons why these exemptions apply are explained below.

Reasons for not providing information

An exemption applies, subject to the public interest test.

An exemption under section 36(1) of FOISA (confidentiality in legal proceedings) applies to some of the information because it refers to legal advice, and disclosure would breach legal professional privilege.

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 as part of open and transparent government, and to inform public debate. However, this is outweighed by the strong public interest in maintaining the right to confidentiality of communications between legal advisers and clients, to ensure that Ministers and officials are able to receive legal advice in confidence, like any other public or private organisation.

An exemption under section 30(b)(i) (free and frank provision of advice) of FOISA applies to some of the material. This exemption applies because disclosure would, or would be likely to, inhibit substantially the free and frank provision of advice to Ministers. This exemption recognises the need for officials to have a private space to provide free and frank advice to Ministers. Disclosing the content of free and frank advice intended to inform Ministers about current issues regarding their engagement with stakeholders, will substantially inhibit the provision of such advice in the 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 allowing a private space within which officials can provide full and frank advice to Ministers, regarding discussions with stakeholders. This private space is essential to ensure all issues are properly considered in advance of engagement with stakeholders. Premature disclosure is likely to undermine the full consideration of issues between Ministers and officials, which in turn will undermine the quality of such engagement, which would not be in the public interest.

An exemption under section 30(c) of FOISA (prejudice to effective conduct of public affairs) applies to some of the information requested. It is essential for Ministers to be able to meet in confidence, with external stakeholders such as SPA to discuss current issues related to the governance of policing in Scotland. Disclosing the content of meetings, without the consent of the stakeholder, is likely to undermine their trust in the Scottish Government and will substantially inhibit communications on this type of issue in the future. This would significantly harm the Government's ability to carry out its work.

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 meet with appropriate external stakeholders to discuss current issues. This private space is essential to allow constructive discussions to take place. Premature disclosure is likely to undermine the full and frank discussion of issues between the Scottish Government and these stakeholders, which would not be in the public interest.

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

FOI-18-00276 - related documents.pdf

5 page PDF
294.7kB

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:
26 Mar 2018
Police Scotland Chief Constable's leave of absence: FOI release