1. Please can the Scottish government confirm that it has taken legal advice on measures which target students and can this be provided.
2. Please can you confirm whether the Scottish government is directing or allowing police to specifically target students.
3. Has the Scottish government taken any legal advice on the possibility that it is breaching the human rights of students.
4. Has the Scottish government had any discussions with the universities in Scotland about what they can and cannot do to students?
It might be helpful if I explain that over the weekend of 25-27 September, there were no legal restrictions which applied solely to students. Following the outbreak of positive cases of coronavirus in student accommodation in parts of Scotland, on 24 September Universities Scotland announced additional guidance on ways to limit the transmission of the virus in the student community: https://www.universities-scotland.ac.uk/preventing-spread-of-coronavirus-in-universities/
An accompanying FAQ was subsequently published: https://www.universities-scotland.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/CV-19-FAQs-Sept-2020.pdf
As part of this guidance, students were asked not to socialise outside their own household for the weekend of 25-27 September, and to refrain from going to hospitality venues such as bars and restaurants. This was a voluntary request on a temporary basis, not a legal requirement or a ban, to limit the transmission of the virus following the recent outbreaks.
In response to your specific questions:
1. The answer to your question is that the Scottish Government has taken legal advice on the voluntary requests made of students referred to above. While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance we are unable to provide the legal advice you have requested because an exemption under section 36(1) (confidentiality of communications) of FOISA applies to that information 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.
2. This is a formal notice under section 17(1) of FOISA that the Scottish Government does not have the information you have requested. This is because The Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Act 2012 stipulates that the Chief Constable of Police Scotland is responsible for the policing of Scotland, and is accountable to the Scottish Police Authority for this, rather than to Scottish Ministers directly. These arrangements are in place to ensure public confidence that the police act independently, free from unwarranted Ministerial interference. It would therefore be inappropriate for the Scottish Government to comment on the police handling of any individual case. The Scottish Government cannot comment on, or seek to intervene in, day to day operational policing matters.
3. The answer to your question is that the Scottish Government has taken legal advice on the human rights implications of the voluntary requests made of students referred to above.
4. This is a formal notice under section 17(1) of FOISA that the Scottish Government does not have the information you have requested. This is because we do not hold recorded information of the discussions between Scottish Government and universities in Scotland on student restrictions.
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.
Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Phone: 0300 244 4000
The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
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