Publication - FOI/EIR release

Private ambulance using blue warning lights or audible warning devices: FOI release

Published: 18 Sep 2018

Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.

Published:
18 Sep 2018
Private ambulance using blue warning lights or audible warning devices: FOI release
FOI reference: FOI/18/02024
Date received: 25 July 2018  
Date responded: 31 August 2018
Information requested
1. Information, copies of letters or communication that the Scottish Government has issued or communicated with
  •  Police Scotland
  •  Scottish ambulance service
  •  Ambulance Scotland
  •  Any other entity or company
Regarding the rights of private ambulance or medical companies to use blue warning lights and or audible warning devices whilst transporting life or limb patients to hospital or as part of their lawful business.
2. Information, copies of any letters, communication or guidance that the Scottish Government has issued to:
  • Police Scotland
  • Scottish ambulance service
  • Ambulance Scotland
  • Any other entity or company
Regarding private ambulance or medical companies legal right to use blue warning lights and or audible warning devices whilst being engaged in a life or limb emergency.
3. Information, copies of any letters or communication that Ambulance Scotland, as a private ambulance company, were provided with during their communication with the Scottish Government for clarification on the rights of private ambulance or medical companies to use blue warning lights and or audible warning devices whilst transporting patients to hospital or other place of treatment.
Response
I enclose a copy of some 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 an exemption(s) under section(s) of FOISA applies to that information. The reasons why that exemption(s) applies 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, i.e. insurance details of a private company, and disclosing it would contravene the data protection principles in Article 5(1) of the General Data Protection Regulation and in section 34(1) of the Data Protection Act 2018.
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.
An exemption under section 33(1)(b) of FOISA (commercial interests) applies to some of the information requested. This exemption applies because disclosure of this particular information would, or would be likely to, prejudice substantially the commercial interests of a private company. Disclosing this information would be likely to give competitors an advantage in future similar tendering exercises, which would substantially prejudice the company’s ability to submit competitive tenders and so could significantly harm their commercial business.
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 companies which tender for NHS contracts, to ensure that we are always able to obtain the best value for public money.
An exemption under section 30(b)(i) and 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 for the purposes of deliberation. This exemption recognises the need for Ministers and officials to have a private space within which to discuss and explore options before the Scottish Government reaches a settled public view. Disclosing the content of free and frank discussions on the regulation of private ambulance companies will substantially inhibit such discussions in the future, particularly because these discussions are still ongoing and decisions have not been taken.
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. It is clearly in the public interest that Ministers can properly provide sound information to Parliament (to which they are accountable), 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.
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Contact

Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit 
Email: ceu@gov.scot
Phone: 0300 244 4000 
The Scottish Government 
St Andrew's House 
Regent Road 
Edinburgh 
EH1 3DG