FOI reference: FOI/18/00310
Date received: 1 February 2018
Date responded: 1 March 2018
Any correspondence between the Scottish and UK governments on:
1. The Marriage Allowance
2. Pension tax relief
3. National Insurance rates
Both after 14 December 2017 to date and from 1 January 2017 to the 14 December 2017.
I enclose a copy of some of the information you requested at Annex A.
Whenever possible it is our aim is to provide information, however, in this instance we are unable to provide some of the information you have requested because of exemptions under section(s) 29(i) and 30(b) of FOISA apply to that information. The reasons why that exemption(s) applies are explained below.
Reasons for not providing information
An exemption under section 29(i) of FOISA applies to some of the information you have requested. This exemption refers to the formulation or development of government policy. The implementation of Scottish income tax remains a live issue. The release of some current correspondence may potentially prejudice the current, and future, work between the UK and Scottish Governments to implement Scottish Income Tax.
The income tax policy agreed by the Scottish Parliament on the 20 February was supported by the income tax discussion paper "The Role of Income Tax in Scotland's Budget" which highlighted that income tax reliefs and National Insurance remain entirely reserved and are therefore matters for the UK Government.
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. Ultimately as noted above the Scottish Government believes that some correspondence between the UK Government and Scottish Government must remain privileged.
An exemption under section 30(b)(i) of FOISA (free and frank provision of advice) and section 30(b)(ii) of FOISA (free and frank exchange of views) applies to some of the information requested. This exemption applies because disclosure would, or would be likely to, inhibit substantially the free and frank exchange of views between the UK and Scottish Governments. This exemption recognises the need for Ministers and officials to have a private space within which to discuss and explore options before the UK and Scottish Governments reaches a settled public view. Disclosing the content of free and frank advice on elements of income tax policy advice will substantially inhibit the provision of such advice in the future, particularly because these discussions are required annually for the passing of a Scottish Rate Resolution.
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 explore and refine the Government's policy on taxation in correspondence with the UK Government. This private thinking space is essential to enable all options to be properly considered, based on the best available advice, so that good policy decisions can be taken. The Scottish Government is committed to transparency in supporting its policy choices and this is particularly true of income tax policy which undergoes a significant level of scrutiny during the passage of the budget bill and the Scottish Rate Resolution.
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