DVLA decision to display Union flag: FOI release

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

FOI reference: FOI/17/02974
Date received: 27 November 2017
Date responded: 19 December 2017

Information requested

You wrote that the DVLA informed you that Scottish ministers were consulted beforehand on the change for renewed driving licence to display the Union flag.

You asked if it was the case (Question 1), what was the content of Scottish Minister's response (Question 2) and sight of the relevant correspondence (Question 3).


The answer to your question is as follows:

Answer 1: Yes.

Answer 2: Mr Mackay MSP, the then Minister for Transport and Islands, wrote two consecutive letters to Westminster ministers, on 29 December 2014 and 28 January 2015 respectively to express his disappointment about how this change had been handled and to query on the cost of including a Saltire on licences issued to drivers in Scotland. Claire Perry MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport, finally advised him on 10 February 2015 that, in her view, the cost of offering a choice of national symbols was prohibitive and confirmed that there will be no option for motorists in Scotland, Wales and England to have a choice of national symbol. Driver licencing, administered by DVLA, is a matter reserved to the UK government. Scottish Ministers therefore do not have any power to instruct DVLA to change the current setting.

Answer 3: we are unable to provide the information you have requested because an exemption under section 28(1) (relations within the UK) of FOISA applies to that information. The reasons why that exemption applies are explained in the Annex to this letter.

Reasons for not providing information

An exemption applies.

An exemption under section 28(1) of FOISA (relations within the UK) applies to the information you have requested in your Question 3. This exemption applies because disclosure would, or would be likely to, prejudice substantially relations between the Scottish Government and the UK Government. 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. The release of these communications about the UK Government's decision to include the Union flag on driving licences issued in Scotland, Wales and England will mean that the UK Government is likely to be more reluctant to share such information with the Scottish Government in future, which would reduce both the frequency and openness of communications between the Scottish Government and other UK administrations.

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, there is a greater public interest in maintaining good relations 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 motoring services. There is no public interest in disclosing information when that will damage relationships and disrupt future communications.

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


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

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