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Publication - FOI/EIR release

Correspondence related to Scottish Government officials discussing stockpiles of FFP3 masks: FOI release

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

Published:
3 Feb 2021
Correspondence related to Scottish Government officials discussing stockpiles of FFP3 masks: FOI release
FOI reference: FOI/202000060337
Date received: 13 Jul 2020
Date responded: 22 Jan 2021
Information requested

1. Copies of any communications involving the Scottish Government’s Resilience Division and/or Scottish Government ministers, between the start of 2015 and the end of 2019, in which there is discussion about stockpiles of FFP3 masks.

Response

Please see attached a document which contains most of the information you have 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 28(1) (relations within the UK) and section 38(1)(b) (personal data) of FOISA applies to that information. The reasons why these exemptions apply are explained in the Annex.

We have also identified a range of documents that UK government departments had shared with Scottish Government on an ‘in confidence’ basis. We have checked with the departments and these documents are still considered to be confidential. The information you have requested is therefore not held by the Scottish Government for the purposes of FOISA because we received it in confidence from the UK Government. This means that, under the terms of section 3(2)(a)(ii) of FOISA, we are unable to disclose it in response to your request.

However, you may wish to submit a new request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) to:

  • Public Health England - email to: FOI@phe.gov.uk

  • Department of Health and Social Care – online at: DHSC FOI request

who should be able to help you further.

Annex
REASONS FOR NOT PROVIDING INFORMATION

An exemption applies
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/contact details of individuals, 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 applies, subject to the public interest test
An exemption under section 28(1) of FOISA (relations within the UK) applies to some of the information requested. 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 would disclose the specific product details of equipment stored and could ultimately undermine the UK’s ability to replenish the stockpile and/or maintain comprehensive stockpiles.

Disclosure of the volume of the specific items of equipment and product categories on different specific dates is likely to highlight potential and perceived vulnerabilities, at a time of critical demand during the UK’s response to a global emergency.

Such disclosures will mean that the UK Government is more likely to be 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 stockpiles of equipment. 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.

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