While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance we are unable to provide the information you have requested relating to the revised base case associated with section 6 of the contract extension to March 2018 in its entirety because an exemption under Section 33(1)(b), commercial interests of FOISA applies. This is in regard to financial discussions and agreement of the contract extension base case between Transport Scotland and the current operator, Argyll Ferries Limited. The reasons why these exemptions apply are explained below.
We can however advise that the initial estimated subsidy payment in relation to the nine month contract extension for the period to March 2018 was £2,451,473.
Please note that we are unable to provide the actual total subsidy paid to Argyll Ferries Ltd between July 2017 to March 2018. The Scottish Government does not have the information you have asked for because the outcome statement for that period has not yet been agreed and as such the total amount of subsidy cannot be given. This extension period concluded on 31 March 2018 and Argyll Ferries Limited is in the process of compiling the actual financial information for the period, which will be sent to Transport Scotland for review and sign off as soon as is practicable.
This is a formal notice under section 17(1) of FOISA that the Scottish Government does not have the information you have requested.
Reasons for not providing information
Exemptions apply, subject to the public interest test.
Section 33(1)(b) – Commercial interests.
An exemption under section 33(1)(b) of FOISA (commercial interests) applies to the financial information requested in relation to the revised base case associated with section 6 of the contract extension to March 2018. This exemption applies because disclosure of the specific nature of this information would, or would be likely to, prejudice substantially the commercial interests of Argyll Ferries Ltd.
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 and transparent government, and to help account for the expenditure of public money. However, there is a greater public interest in protecting the commercial interests of Argyll Ferries Ltd to ensure that we are always able to obtain the best value for public money.
Argyll Ferries Ltd operate a service under contract to the Scottish Ministers that was won following a competitive tendering exercise and also faces competition from your company, Western Ferries, for carriage of passengers. Disclosing their financial information would be likely to place Argyll Ferries Ltd, or their parent company David MacBrayne Ltd or any other subsidiary companies in the group, at a competitive disadvantage in any tendering exercises.