Publication - FOI/EIR release

Association of Scotland's Self Caterers (ASSC) COVID-19 exemption: FOI release

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

Published:
3 Nov 2020
Association of Scotland's Self Caterers (ASSC) COVID-19 exemption: FOI release
FOI reference: FOI/202000090205
Date received: 23 Sep 2020
Date responded: 16 Oct 2020
Information requested

All documents or transcripts relating to the legal advice or clarification provided to the Association of Self Catering Scotland on 22 September 2020 regarding the exemption granted to all self catering accommodation Scotland from the single two households only rule. This has been widely publicised by ASSC on social media and celebrated by their members and others from the sector but requests for sight of the clarification are being denied.

Response

I enclose a copy of some of the information you requested in the two attached documents.

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 an exemptions under sections s.29(1)(a) (policy formulation) and s.38(1)(b) (personal information) of FOISA applies to that information.

An exemption under section s.29(1)(a) (policy formulation) of FOISA applies to some of the information you have requested. The redactions cover a discussion between officials exploring the possible application of the one household rule to self catering accommodation, prior to advice being given to the ASSC, which is set out in the second document attached. 

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 because of the high profile of  tourism and hospitality within the current restrictions and the change in advice provided to the ASSC around the applications of the one-household rule to self-catering accommodation.

However, this is outweighed by the public interest in allowing a private space within which officials can freely discuss policy options as part of the process of exploring and refining the Government’s position on the various tourism issues, and until the Government as a whole can adopt a policy 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. Premature disclosure is likely to undermine the full and frank discussion of issues between officials, which in turn will undermine the quality of the decision making process, which would not be in the public interest.

An exemption under section s.38(1)(b) (personal information) of FOISA applies to some of the information you have requested, specifically names, email addresses and phone numbers.  

In addition to the attached material, also of relevance is the First Minister's speech of 22 September where the one household rule was set out. https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-update-first-ministers-speech-22-september-2020/. I have drawn out key points below.

1. We know from the data available to us through Test & Protect that a high proportion of new cases come from social interactions between different households in our homes.

2. We also know from Test & Protect - and perhaps more so from our own experiences - that it is much more difficult to maintain physical distance – and have, for example, good ventilation - inside our own homes.

3. We also know that when the virus infects one person in a household it is highly likely to affect others in the same household. It will also infect people visiting that household, who will in turn take it back to their households.

4. Therefore, difficult though this is, any serious effort to reduce the R number below 1, which must be our objective, must take account of this key driver of transmission and it must seek to break that driver of transmission.

5. So after careful consideration, we have decided that from tomorrow, to be reviewed every three weeks, and with exceptions that I will come on to, visiting other households will not be permitted. 

6. These new restrictions apply to people’s homes - in other words, to private indoor spaces.

7. Rules for meeting other people in public indoor spaces that are subject to strict regulation and guidance, remain the same – you can meet with one other household only and in groups of no more than six people.

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Contact

Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Email: ceu@gov.scot
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
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