FOI reference: FOI/18/00325
Date received: 5 February 2018
Date responded: 5 March 2018
Any communications relating to Scottish Government response to UK applications rates by the January deadline published by UCAS, including discussion and drafting of the specific press release published on the Scottish Government website on 5 February 2018, and any other wider communication plan, messaging documents, communications briefing or any other document relating to the release and Scottish Government response to the report.
I enclose a copy of most of the information you 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 because exemptions under sections 30(b)(i) and 30(b)(ii) of FOISA (free and frank advice and exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation) and section 38(1)(b) (personal information) of FOISA applies to that information. The reasons why these exemptions apply are explained below.
Reasons for not providing information
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, ie names/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.
An exemption applies, subject to the public interest test.
Exemptions under sections 30(b)(i) and 30(b)(ii) of FOISA (free and frank advice and exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation) 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 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 before reaching the settled public position which will be given in whatever final press lines are used. Disclosing the content of free and frank briefing material on the preparation of the Scottish Government's media response to this UCAS publication will substantially inhibit such briefing in the future, particularly because these discussions relate to a sensitive or controversial issue such as widening access to higher education.
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 press lines. It is clearly in the public interest that Ministers can properly and robustly defend the Government's policies and decisions. 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.
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