Publication - FOI/EIR release

Travel advice during Pandemic: FOI Review

Published: 15 Oct 2020

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

Published:
15 Oct 2020
Travel advice during Pandemic: FOI Review
FOI reference: FOI/202000087775
Date received: 14 Sep 2020
Date responded: 14 Oct 2020
Information requested

i Source, analysis and all correspondence relating to the “thorough review” of the decision to add Spain to  57 other countries from which incoming travellers will not have to isolate when they arrive in Scotland on 20 July 2020;

ii Source, analysis and all correspondence relating to the decision of the Scottish Government from its decision of 8th July to add Spain to countries from which incoming travellers will not have to isolate when they arrive in Scotland;

iii What correspondence and analysis the Scottish Government had on Spain in the week to 20 July given widely available reports of the steepest daily jump in coronavirus infections in more than two months, with the Catalonia region recording more than 1,000 infections per day;

iv What contact there was any correspondence between the Spanish Embassy and the Scottish Government to obtain information;

v What contact there was between the Scottish Government and the regional government of Catalonia throughout July 2020;

vi All Scottish Government data on rates of known CoVid infection prevalence rates on 8 July, 20 July and 25 July in each region of Spain;

vii Correspondence between Scottish Government including Ministers and any lobby groups, airlines, airport operators during July 2020.

viii Source analysis and all correspondence relating to decision of 25 July 2020 to include travellers from Spain who will have to isolate from 26 July 2020.

ix Correspondence on regional variations considered for mainland Spain and Spanish islands in each decision (8th July, 20th July and 25th July 2020)

Response

I have now completed my review of our response to your request under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA) for information regarding the decisions taken by the Scottish Government in July with regards to Spain’s position on the list of countries from which returning travellers would not have to self-isolate.
I have concluded that a different decision should be substituted. I have reconsidered the exemptions applied in our original response and concluded that, whilst exemptions do apply to some of the information you have requested (see below), they do not apply to all the information. Please accept my apologies that we withheld this information in our original response to your request.

Accordingly, I enclose a copy of some of the information you have requested in Annexes A to D. I have set out each of your nine requests below and have cross-referenced the relevant Annex in relation to questions
(i) to (iii) and (vi) to (ix). Questions (iv) and (v) are addressed separately below.

i. Source, analysis and all correspondence relating to the “thorough review” of the decision to add Spain to 57 other countries from which incoming travellers will not have to isolate when they arrive in Scotland on 20 July 2020
- Some of the information you have requested is in Annex A

ii. Source, analysis and all correspondence relating to the decision of the Scottish Government from its decision of 8th July to add Spain to countries from which incoming travellers will not have to isolate when they arrive in Scotland
- Some of the information you have requested is in Annex B

iii. What correspondence and analysis the Scottish Government had on Spain in the week to 20 July given widely available reports of the steepest daily jump in coronavirus infections in more than two months, with the Catalonia region recording more than 1,000 infections per day 
- Some of the information you have requested is in Annex A

vi. All Scottish Government data on rates of known CoVid infection prevalence rates on 8 July, 20 July and 25 July in each region of Spain
- The information you have requested is in the documents within Annexes A, B and C

vii. Correspondence between Scottish Government including Ministers and any lobby groups, airlines, airport operators during July 2020
- The information you have requested is in Annex D

viii. Source analysis and all correspondence relating to decision of 25 July 2020 to include travellers from Spain who will have to isolate from 26 July 2020
- Some of the information you have requested is in Annex C
ix. Correspondence on regional variations considered for mainland Spain and Spanish islands in each decision (8th July, 20th July and 25th July 2020)
- The information you have requested is in the documents within Annexes A, B and C

While our aim is to provide information wherever possible, the Scottish Government does not have the information you have requested in relation to question (iv) (what contact there was any correspondence between the Spanish Embassy and the Scottish Government to obtain information) and question (v) (what contact there was between the Scottish Government and the regional government of Catalonia throughout July 2020). The Scottish Government does not have this information because there was no correspondence between the Spanish Embassy and the Scottish Government to obtain information, and there was no contact between the Scottish Government and the Catalan Government in July 2020.

This is a formal notice under section 17(1) of FOISA that the Scottish Government does not have 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 30(b)(i) and (ii) (free and frank provision of advice and exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation), 32(1)(a) (international relations), 33(1)(b) (commercial interests), 36(1) (confidentiality of communications) and 38(1)(b) (personal information) of FOISA apply to that information. The reasons why these exemptions
apply are set out below.
Our aim is to provide information whenever possible. However, in this instance, some of the information you have requested (the point prevalence data compiled by the Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC) from information provided by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and a risk assessment by Public Health England) is 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 the Department for Transport at foi-advice-team-dft@dft.gov.uk who should be able to help you further.

The exemptions that apply to some of the information you requested are as follows:

Section 30(b)(i) and (ii) – Free and frank provision of advice and exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation 
Exemptions under section 30(b)(i) and (ii) of FOISA (free and frank provision of advice and exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation) applies to some of the information you have requested. 

These exemptions apply because disclosure would, or would be likely to, inhibit substantially the free and frank provision of advice and exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation. The exemptions recognise the need for Ministers and officials to have a private space within which to discuss and explore options before the Scottish Government reaches a settled public view. Disclosing the content of free and frank discussions on public health measures at the border will substantially inhibit such discussions in the future, particularly because discussions on the issue are still ongoing and decisions are still being taken, and these decisions relate to sensitive issues including relations with other countries.

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 allowing Ministers and officials a private space within which to explore and refine the Government’s position on border health measures until the Government as a whole can adopt a policy position that is sound and likely to be sustained. This private thinking space is essential to enable all options to be properly considered, so that good decisions can be taken, especially given that decision-making around the list of countries from which returning travellers do not have to self-isolate is ongoing. 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.

Section 32(1)(a) – International relations
An exemption under section 32(1)(a)(i) of FOISA (international relations) applies to some of the information requested. This exemption applies because disclosure would, or would be likely to, prejudice substantially relations between the United Kingdom and Spain. The effective conduct of international relations depends upon maintaining trust and confidence between the UK Government and other States. In this case, disclosing information about the border health measures evidence including analysis of that evidence would substantially prejudice relations between the United Kingdom and Spain because there is a need to maintain sharing and assessment of evidence to ensure that future decisions are based on robust analysis.

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 ensuring that the UK Government is able to maintain good relations with other States, in order to protect and promote UK interests abroad. There can be no public interest in jeopardising those relations by the Scottish Government disclosing this information.

Section 33(1)(b) – Commercial interests and the economy
An exemption under section 33(1)(b) of FOISA (commercial interests) applies to some of the information you have requested. This exemption applies because disclosure would, or would be likely to, prejudice substantially the commercial interests of EasyJet, Jet2 and TUI. Disclosing this information would be likely to substantially prejudice EasyJet, Jet2 and TUI’s commercial interests because doing so would give an unfair advantage to their competitors. 

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 protecting the commercial interests of companies which provide information to the Scottish Government to ensure the continued sharing of information with the Scottish Government. In turn this will ensure that the decisions taken by the Scottish Government are as robust as possible.

Section 36(1) – Confidentiality of communications
An exemption under section 36(1) of FOISA (confidentiality of communications) applies to some of the information requested because it is legal advice and disclosure would breach legal professional privilege.

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 some public interest in release as part of open and transparent government, and to inform public debate. However, this is outweighed by the strong public interest in maintaining the right to confidentiality of communications between legal advisers and clients, to ensure that Ministers and officials are able to receive legal advice in confidence, like any other public or private organisation.

Section 38(1)(b) – Personal information
An exemption under section 38(1)(b) applies to some of the information requested because it is personal data of a third party (i.e. 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.

About FOI

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FoI-202000087775 - Annex C

7 page PDF
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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