FOI reference: FOI/18/00407
Date received: 9 February 2018
Date responded: 9 March 2018
Any letters or emails offering advice against income tax rises from business organisations to Nicola Sturgeon, Derek Mackay or Government Ministers in 2017 or 2018 to date.
Whenever possible it is our aim is to provide information, however, in this instance we are unable to provide all the information you have requested because an exemptions under section 33(1)(b), 38(1)(b) of FOISA apply to that information. The reasons why that exemption applies are explained below.
Some of the information you have requested is otherwise accessible. A letter from Sir Iain McMillan is readily available in the public domain and received significant media coverage.
We are able to release some information and this can be found below.
Reasons for not providing information
An exemption under section 33(1)(b) of FOISA (disclosure would (or would be likely to) prejudice substantially the commercial interests of any person or organisation (section 33(1)(b)) applies to some of the information requested. The exemption applies because some of the correspondence includes details of on-going commercial interests and potential decisions the release of which may be detrimental to the organisations involved.
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 do not recognise that in this case there is a public interest in publishing the commercial considerations of a number of correspondents. An exemption under section 38(1)(b) of FOISA (the personal data of a third party) applies to the information requested. This exemption applies because disclosure would involve releasing the personal data of third parties. In addition to names and contact addresses included in items of correspondence, the political opinions of individuals are also deemed as personal data and may not be released.
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, we also recognise that the release of personal data in private correspondence into the public domain without express consent may in some cases discourage the future engagement by individuals in sharing their views with the Scottish Government which may then have a subsequent negative impact on policy development.
We would also note that there has been significant levels of public debate on this issue of income tax policy in Scotland, and that the withholding of a small number of personal correspondences is not to the detriment of this debate.
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