Publication - FOI/EIR release

Correspondence relating to 'herd immunity' surrounding COVID-19: FOI release

Published: 20 Apr 2021

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

Published:
20 Apr 2021
Correspondence relating to 'herd immunity' surrounding COVID-19: FOI release
FOI reference: FOI/202000091244
Date received: 25 Sep 2020
Date responded: 10 Mar 2021
Information requested

All email correspondence or written correspondence or minutes of meetings that mention the phrase 'herd immunity' sent from or to the National Clinical Director, Prof Jason Leitch, Dr Catherine Calderwood, Dr Gregor Smith, the First Minister or Health Secretary.

I would like this information from the end of February this year until the most recent date found.

Also to ask for any minutes of cabinet meetings that discuss the issue of 'herd immunity' surrounding the Coronavirus pandemic.

Response

For your first request on correspondence pertaining to 'herd immunity' attached is most of the information you 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 an exemption under section 36(1) of FOISA (confidentiality in legal proceedings) applies to one of the documents in scope of your request. It applies as the document contains 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.

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, 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.

For the second part of your request pertaining to minutes of Cabinet meetings that discussed 'herd immunity' I can confirm that there have been no instances of this being discussed noted in the minutes. This is a formal notice under section 17(1) of FOISA that the Scottish Government does not have the information you have requested.

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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