Publication - FOI/EIR release

COVID-19 Clinical Guidance: FOI release

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

Published:
14 Sep 2020
COVID-19 Clinical Guidance: FOI release
FOI reference: FOI/202000057544
Date received: 6 Jul 2020
Date responded: 18 Aug 2020
Information requested

Copy of all published versions of the national clinical guidance for nursing and residential care homes and COVID-19 and a copy of all correspondence with Scottish Ministers regarding the versions of the national clinical guidance for nursing and residential care homes.

Response

I attach copies of the published versions of the national clinical guidance for nursing and residential care homes and COVID-19 as requested.
An exemption under section 29(1)(a) of FOISA (formulation or development of government policy) applies to the copies of the correspondence with Scottish Ministers regarding the versions of the national clinical guidance for nursing and residential care homes because it relates to the formulation of the Scottish Government’s clinical guidance for nursing and residential care homes during the Covid-19 pandemic.

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 high quality policy and decision-making, and in the properly considered implementation and development of policies and decisions. This means that Ministers and officials need to be able to consider all available options and to consider these fully, in developing and updating guidance in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Exemption under section 30(b)(i) of FOISA (free and frank provision of advice) applies to the information requested. This exemption applies because disclosure would, or would be likely to, inhibit substantially the free and frank provision of advice. This exemption recognises the need for officials to have a private space within which to provide free and frank advice to Ministers and officials before the Scottish Government reaches a settled public view. Disclosing the content of free and frank advice will substantially inhibit the provision of such advice in the future, particularly because guidance will continue to require to be updated to reflect the ongoing response to Covid-19.

This exemption is also 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 these 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 a private space within which officials can provide full and frank advice to Ministers and officials, as part of the process of exploring and refining the Government’s position that is sound and likely to be effective. This private thinking space is essential to enable all options to be properly considered, based on the best available advice, so that good decisions can be taken. Premature disclosure is likely to undermine the full and frank discussion of issues between Ministers and officials, which in turn will undermine the quality of the decision making process, 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 Andrews House
Regent Road
Edinburgh
EH1 3DG