Publication - FOI/EIR release

Ministerial communications relating to public protest 13 May 2021: FOI release

Published: 16 Jun 2021

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

Published:
16 Jun 2021
Ministerial communications relating to public protest 13 May 2021: FOI release
FOI reference: FOI/202100201852
Date received: 14 May 2021
Date responded: 14 Jun 2021
Information requested

I am interested in ministerial communications with other public bodies regarding the public protest around attempts by Home Office immigration officials to details two men in Pollokshields, Glasgow on May 13. Details: https://theferret.scot/men-freed-as-intimidating-immigration-raid-ends/

It has been reported that the Justice Minister and the First Minister of Scotland were in 'regular' contact with Police Scotland officials and Home officials during the day, in relation to this protest. Please could you supply copies of any contact records, briefing notes, emails or SMS messages sent between these Scottish Ministers and Police Scotland or Home Office officials that relate to this incident.

I understand the messages sent via apps such as WhatsApp, Signal or other messaging apps are still subject to FOI and therefore please consider any relevant messages sent via such apps as within scope of this request.

Response

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(s) under section(s): All information has been provided in separate attachments.

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.

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. While immigration is reserved to the UK, it overlaps significantly with devolved services (such as policing) for which the Scottish Government is responsible, so it is vital that we co-operate effectively and that requires us to maintain each other’s trust. It is not in the best interests of the public to disclose 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. 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.

WhatsApp, SMS and other messaging platforms have been checked, but were not used to communicate on this matter.

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Contact

Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Email: ceu@gov.scot
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
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Edinburgh
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