Publication - FOI/EIR release

Cancellation of the 2020 exam diet: FOI release

Published: 10 Aug 2020

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

Published:
10 Aug 2020
Cancellation of the 2020 exam diet: FOI release
FOI reference: FOI/202000034452
Date received: 5 May 2020
Date responded: 14 Jul 2020
Information requested
  • All correspondence or documentation (including emails, attachments, typed or handwritten notes, letters, notes/records of phone calls, texts or instant messages, minutes of meetings, briefings or otherwise) between the Scottish Government and the SQA regarding the cancellation of the 2020 exam diet. I would like this information from the 1st February 2020 up to the present day.
  • All correspondence or documentation (including emails, attachments, typed or handwritten notes, letters, notes/records of phone calls, texts or instant messages, minutes of meetings, briefings or otherwise) between the Scottish Government and Education Scotland regarding the cancellation of the 2020 exam diet. I would like this information from the 1st February 2020 up to the present day.

You further clarified:
I can confirm that my enquiry relates to all parts of the process of the cancellation of the 2020 exam diet, and subsequent decisions around the handling of certification as a result of this cancellation.
Regarding which directorates of the Government my enquiry relates, I can confirm this is the Learning Directorate, and the Early Learning and Childcare Programme Directorate.

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 exemptions under sections section 38(1)(b) (personal information), 28(1) (substantial prejudice to relations between the Scottish Government and another UK administration), and section 30(c) (substantial prejudice to the effective conduct of public affairs), of FOISA apply to that information.

An exemption under section 38(1)(b) of FOISA applies to some of the information you have requested. This is because it is personal data, i.e. names, contact details and signatures, 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 under section 28(1) of FOISA applies to a small amount of information in enclosure 19, only. This exemption applies because disclosure would, or would be likely to, prejudice substantially relations between the Scottish Government and the UK Government as it would reveal candid internal discussion about another administration’s policies. It is essential for the effective administration of the UK as a whole that there should be regular, and often private, communications between the Scottish Government, the UK Government and the other devolved administrations. Disclosure of this information will mean that the UK Government is likely to be more reluctant to communicate as frequently and openly with the Scottish Government in future.

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 as a part of open, transparent and accountable government, and to inform public debate. However, this is outweighed by the public interest in maintaining close working relationships between the Scottish Government and the UK Government, and in protecting the free exchange of information between the administrations to ensure that we keep each other fully and regularly informed about matters of mutual interest, such as approaches to various aspects of cancellation of the 2020 exam diet in different parts of the UK. Disclosing information that will damage relationships and disrupt future communications would not be in the public interest, as that may impact on the effectiveness of future policy development.

An exemption under section 30(c) of FOISA (prejudice to effective conduct of public affairs) applies to a small amount of information requested relating to the dial-in details for meetings held via teleconferencing facilities. Disclosing this information would allow uninvited parties to access these meetings in the future, which would constitute substantial prejudice to the effective conduct of public affairs in terms of the exemption.

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. However, there is a greater public interest in allowing Ministers and officials a private space within which to communicate/meet and ensuring that the Scottish Government is able conduct this aspect of its business effectively.

Some of the information you have requested is available from the Scottish Government website (https://www.gov.scot/groups/coronavirus-covid-19-qualifications-contingency-group/). Under section 25(1) of FOISA, we do not have to give you information which is already reasonably accessible to you. If, however, you do not have internet access to obtain this information

About FOI

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.

Contact

Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Email: ceu@gov.scot
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
Regent Road
Edinburgh
EH1 3DG