Covid 19 coronavirus at the Edinburgh Hilton Carlton: FOI release

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

Information requested

I would like to request, under Freedom of Information legislation, any and all communications concerning the outbreak of Corona Virus at the Edinburgh Hilton Carlton in late February.

This should include but not be limited to emails, messages, hand written memos, notes of phone calls, video calls and whats app or other text based electronic messages, between the Scottish Government (including but not limited to FM/FM’s office/Minsters/other staff) and Health Protection Scotland, Edinburgh Council, the Chief Medical Officer, Jason Leitch, Nike, Public Health England and any of the other international public health bodies involved.


Further to my letter of 3 December 2020, I have now completed my review of our failure to respond to your request under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA) for FOI 202000036339 which you submitted on 12 May 2020 regarding information related to the Nike conference. In accordance with section 21(4) of FOISA, I have also reached a decision on your request. I can now provide our response to your original request.

I apologise for the considerable delay in responding to your request and fully accept that you did not receive this response within the timescales allowed in FOISA. The team which handles these requests had received an unprecedented volume of correspondence at a time when other pressures were

I attach a copy of some 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 exemptions under sections 30(b)(i) and (ii) of FOISA (free and frank provision of advice and exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation) and
section 38(1)(b) (personal information) of FOISA applies to that information. The reasons why these exemptions apply are explained in the Annex to this letter.

You may find it helpful to note that some information has also been redacted because it does not fall within the scope of your request regarding the Nike event. For ease of reference this information is marked as [redacted – out of scope].

Some of the emails included in the response have been incorrectly dated February in the subject line (documents 9 &11 RE: Wednesday 4 Feb - New Cases). You will see from the timestamp of the emails the correct date and time is March. You will also note in documents 5 & 7 the date recorded in some parts is Tuesday 2 March, this is identified and amended in some places to reflect the accurate date of Tuesday 3 March.


An exemption applies

An exemption under section s.38(1)(b) of FOISA applies to some of the information you have requested because it is the personal data of a third party, i.e. names and 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.

An exemption applies, subject to the public interest test.

Exemptions under sections 30(b)(i) and 30(b)(ii) of FOISA (free and frank advice and exchange of views) apply to some of the information 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 to have a private space within which to seek advice and views from officials before reaching the settled public position which will be given. Disclosing the content of free and frank briefing material and discussions on aspects of the Scottish Governments response to Covid-19 in Scotland and in this case the handling of information in relation to a specific event will substantially inhibit such briefing in the future, particularly because these discussions relate to a sensitive or controversial issue such as patient confidentiality.

These exemptions are 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 exemptions. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exemptions. 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 a private space within which officials can provide free and frank advice and views to Ministers in briefing about the public health messaging in relation to this event. It is clearly in the public interest that Ministers can properly defend the Government’s decisions in relation to the public health messaging in relation to this event and more widely in relation to the Coronavirus in Scotland.

They need full and candid advice from officials to enable them to do so. Premature disclosure of this type of information could lead to a reduction in the comprehensiveness and frankness of such advice and views in the future, which would not be in the public interest.

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 - 2020000118796 - Information released


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

The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
Regent Road

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