FOI reference: FOI/18/03029
Date received: 13 December 2017
Date responded: 16 January 2018
Information in relation to calls with members of the First Ministers' Council of Economic Advisers in June, August and November this year, which were referred to in the third footnote of the Scottish Government paper entitled 'Potential impact of an increase in the Additional Rate of Income Tax from 45p to 50p'. The request asked for information on:
- The number of calls.
- The date of calls.
- Who made the calls from the Scottish Government and to which council members on each occasion.
- Any notes or minutes recorded of the calls.
- Any action points taken by Scottish Government officials after the calls.
- All emails regarding the organisation of the calls and emails made after the calls which referenced them.
The answer to your questions in point one and two of your request is that 3 calls took place with Council members in June, August and November 2017 on the following dates:
21st June 2017
28th August 2017
15th November 2017
The Chief Economist held one additional follow-up call on the 1st September 2017 with Anton Muscatelli and Mariana Mazzucato who were not available for the call in August.
In response to points three, four and five of your request, in this instance we are unable to provide some the information you have requested because exemption under section 27(1) (information intended for future publication) of FOISA apply to that information. The reasons why these exemptions apply are explained below.
Minutes for meetings of the Council of Economic Advisors are already published on the gov.scot website – and minutes for these calls will be published in a similar manner.
While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance the costs of locating, retrieving and providing the information requested would exceed the upper cost limit of £600. The remit of the Council is very broad - advising Ministers on how to best position Scotland amongst the world's most competitive economies. Beyond the organisation of the calls, the conference call itself can capture discussion and action points on members' queries across many aspects of the Scottish economy and Scottish Government policy areas [to inform the Council of Economic Advisers broader understanding of Scotland's economy]. As a result, many officials are involved in preparing, contributing or following up, to material for the Council, which typically references the calls of the Council as a starting point and which would, therefore, capture a significantly large number of documents across the Scottish Government.
Under section 12 of FOISA public authorities are not required to comply with a request for information if the authority estimates that the cost of complying would exceed the upper cost limit, which is currently set at £600 by Regulations made under section 12.
You may, however, wish to consider reducing the scope of your request in order that the costs can be brought below £600. For example, this might be achieved if a future request limitted the scope of the request to a specific topic, action point, or if it specified a what sort of reference (minutes etc) to the calls should fall under the request. You may also find it helpful to look at the Scottish Information Commissioner's 'Tips for requesting information under FOI and the EIRs' on her website at: http://www.itspublicknowledge.info/YourRights/Tipsforrequesters.aspx.
Reasons for not providing information
An exemption applies, subject to the public interest test.
An exemption under section 27(1) of FOISA (information intended for future publication) applies to some of the information requested in relation to who made the calls from the Scottish Government and to which council members on each occasion; any notes or minutes recorded of the call; and any action points taken by Scottish Government officials after the calls, because we intend to publish that information, in the form of call readouts, prior to March 2018, which is within 12 weeks of the date of your request. We consider that it is reasonable to withhold the information until that date, rather than release all of this information before the planned publication date.
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 because this group provides expert advise to the First Minister and this will be met by our planned publication. In the meantime, there is a greater public interest in taking the time necessary to ensure the information has been properly collated and checked before it is published as planned. Also, we see no public interest in disrupting our programme of work to release the information ahead of the intended publication date.
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