First Minister’s trip to the United States - correspondence and details: FOI release

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

Information requested

1. Could you please provide all correspondence between the Scottish Government and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office about the First Minister’s trip to the United States, which took place from 4-8 February 2019.

2. Please also provide any correspondence between Scottish ministers and the Foreign Secretary or Scottish Secretary about the trip. 

3. Please also provide details of any costs of this trip and confirm whether these were paid for by the Scottish Government or Foreign and Commonwealth Office. 

The correspondence should cover the two month period up to the first day of the visit, February 4 2019 and the four week period after the trip.


1. A total of 8 chains of e-mail exchanges were found in the period specified. Copies of these email exchanges are attached in Annexes A-H.

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 38(1)(b) (personal information) and 30(b)(ii) (free and frank exchange of views) of FOISA apply to some of that information. 

An exemption under section 30(b)(ii) of FOISA (free and frank exchange of views) exempts some information from disclosure where disclosure would, or would be likely to, cause substantial harm to the free and frank provision of advice

This exemption is subject to the “public interest test.”  Therefore, taking account of all the circumstances of this case, we have considered whether or not 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 allowing officials a private space within which to communicate as part of the process of exploring and refining the Government’s position, until the Government as a whole can adopt a decision that is sound and likely to be effective.

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, ie names and contact details of individuals, and disclosing it would contravene the data protection principles in Schedule 1 to the Data Protection Act 1998.  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. 

2. No correspondence found because it does not exist.

3. The total costs and breakdown for the visit has previously been published in the following Freedom of Information Request:

The budget for international visits comes from the Department for External Affairs’ overall yearly funding.  All spending must fall in line with our policy and costs are kept to a minimum.  The final published budget for the year 2018-19 as voted on by the Scottish Parliament is that in the Spring Budget Revision and can be found at the link below:

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FOI-19-01543 - Information Released


Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
Regent Road

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