Scottish Government preparations for a pandemic: FOI release

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

Information requested

For the period 1st January 2010 to 31st December 2019, provide and publish the following information:

1)  Did the Scottish Government or any of its agencies, undertake the preparation of a plan, procedure, or protocol, to cover the event of Scotland being enveloped by an epidemic, or pandemic. If so what provisions did they put in place to deal with the event.

2)  Was the Scottish Government provided with the plan EXERCISE CYGNUS produced by the United Kingdom Government in 2016? If so what action did they take concerning the matters raised in the document?


1. While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance the costs of locating, retrieving and providing the information requested would exceed the upper cost limit of £600.

Work around the development of plans, procedures and protocols to help Scotland prepare for a pandemic has been ongoing throughout the 10 year period covered by your request. This planning has been focused around preparations for an influenza pandemic, rather than a novel virus such as Covid-19. This includes routine policy work associated with the development of pandemic flu guidance and in building PPE stockpiles to help prepare for an influenza pandemic. A draft copy of the pandemic flu guidance has already been provided to you under your FoI request: 202000037205 / 97330.  

As we have had to search over the full 10 year period of your request we have found in excess of 9,800 documents which are potentially within scope of this request. An estimate based on a sample of locating, sifting and redacting these documents has indicated that it would exceed the upper cost limit permitted to respond to this part of your request. Under section 12 of FOISA public authorities are not required to comply with a request for information if the authority estimates that the cost of complying would exceed the upper cost limit, which is currently set at £600 by Regulations made under section 12.

You may, however, wish to consider reducing the scope of your request in order that the costs can be brought below £600 by making your request more specific, such as focusing on specific aspects of pandemic planning, or by reducing the timeframe of the request. You may also find it helpful to look at the Scottish Information Commissioner’s ‘Tips for requesting information under FOI and the EIRs’ on his website at: Tips for requesters (

2. In response to question (2) I can confirm that the Scottish Government was provided with a copy of the Exercise Cygnus report. The UK Government also published the Exercise Cygnus report on 20 October: UK pandemic preparedness - GOV.UK (

Annex A includes a copy of a joint letter from the Deputy Chief Medical Officer and the Deputy Director Resilience Division provided to NHS Boards and other key partners in Nov 2017, which provides information on actions to improve pandemic flu planning as a result of Exercise Cygnus and other related activity. This letter is also referenced in the additional material provided as described below.

Additional Information provided outwith FOISA

You may find it helpful to note that the Scottish Government rehearsed for a flu pandemic in 2015 in an exercise called Silver Swan to assess the preparedness and response of Scotland’s local and national arrangements to a pandemic influenza outbreak over a prolonged period. Exercise Silver Swan Overall Exercise report April 2016 and Exercise Silver Swan Progress Review (6th December 2016) are available to view through this link here.

We have also provided you with a link to some information that is now available on the Scottish Parliament website which may be of interest to you as it relates to the pandemic planning. This information is presented as a contextual summary of the key decisions and actions that were taken as part of the Scottish Government’s approach to pandemic planning.


About FOI

The Scottish Government is committed to publishing all information released in response to Freedom of Information requests. View all FOI responses at

FOI 202000049548 - Annex A


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

The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
Regent Road

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