Publication - FOI/EIR release

COVID-19: Evidence against stopping cross-border travel: FOI release

Published: 25 Mar 2021

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

Published:
25 Mar 2021
COVID-19: Evidence against stopping cross-border travel: FOI release
FOI reference: FOI/202000120344
Date received: 7 Dec 2020
Date responded: 8 Jan 2021
Information requested

Evidence against stopping cross-border travel to prevent transmission of Covid-19

1. Could you please provide the evidence considered by UK governments, including the Scottish Government, used to determine that it was *not* necessary to stop international cross-border passenger travel, or implement quarantine measures?

2. D
uring the course of the 4-nation discussions, did the Scottish Government advocate to stop international cross-border passenger travel into Scotland or the UK?

3. W
ould the Scottish Government have been able to stop international cross-border passenger travel into Scotland, even if not implemented across the UK as a whole? 

Response

Our aim is to provide information whenever possible. However, in this Instance some of the information you have requested is not held by the Scottish Government for the purposes of FOISA because we received it in confidence from the UK Government. This means that, under the terms of section 3(2)(a)(ii) of FOISA, we are unable to disclose it in response to your request.

Some other exemptions apply to some of the information you have requested.

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 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. The release of these communications about testing will mean that the other administrations in the UK are likely to be more reluctant to share such information with the Scottish Government in future, which would reduce both the frequency and openness of communications between the Scottish Government and other UK administrations.

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. There is no public interest in disclosing information when that will damage relationships and disrupt future communications.

An exemption under section 30(b)(i) and (ii) (free and frank exchange of advice and views) of FOISA applies to some of the information you have requested. This is because disclosure would, or would be likely to, inhibit substantially the free and frank exchange of views and provision of advice.

This exemption recognises the need for officials to have a private space in which to provide free and frank advice to other officials. Disclosing the content of free and frank provision of advice or exchange of views in relation to an investigation would substantially inhibit the provision of such advice, or the exchange of such views, in the 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 allowing officials a private space within which to explore and refine the process and procedure by which investigations are conducted. This private thinking space is essential to enable all information and options to be properly considered. Disclosure is likely to undermine the quality of this process, which would not be in the public interest.

An exemption under section 38(1)(b) of FOISA applies to some of the information you have requested because it is personal data of a third party, for example names of individuals or other personal data 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.

About FOI
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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