COVID-19 Correspondence concerning mass population testing: FOI release

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

Information requested

Information held by the Scottish Government relating to any internal correspondence and documentation circulated to and from the Cabinet Secretary for Health between November 2 and November 17 2020 that references the UK Mass Population Testing Plan for COVID-19.


In response to your request I enclose a copy of some of the information you requested in a PDF format, as outlined below.

1. Annex A – Correspondence
2. Annex B – Extracts from briefing

Whilst our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance we are unable to provide some of the information you have requested because of exemptions under section 28(1) (Relations within the United Kingdom) and section 38(1)(b) (Personal Information), of FOISA. The reason why the exemptions apply are explained below.

Reasons for not providing information

An exemption applies.

An exemption under section 38(1)(b) of FOISA (personal information) applies to a small amount of the information requested because it is personal data of a third party. 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 would reveal candid discussions between the UK Government and Scottish Government on the National Testing Programme. 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. Disclosure of this information will mean that the UK Government is likely to be more reluctant to communicate as frequently and openly with the Scottish Government in future.

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 close working relationships 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 the formulation and development of the Scottish Government’s policy proposals to protect Scotland’s interests in Europe following the EU Referendum and their potential impact on Scottish Transport. There is no public interest in disclosing information when that will damage relationships and disrupt future communications as that may impact on the effectiveness of future policy development and implementation work.

About FOI

The Scottish Government is committed to publishing all information released in response to Freedom of Information requests. View all FOI responses at

FOI - 202000112355 - Information Released - Annex A and B


Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
Regent Road

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