Information

Clinical advice provided to First Minister regarding self isolation rules: FOI release

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


Information requested

The clinical advice received by the First Minister regarding self-isolation rules, in particular regarding the length of time that the self-isolation period should be and isolation for household contacts of a positive PCR case. Please provide this information for the following separate periods: The week commencing 6 December 2021, the week commencing 13 December 2021, the week commencing 20 December 2021, the week commencing 27 December 2021 and the week commencing 3 January 2022.

Response

I attach a PDF which contains some of the clinical advice given to the First Minister in the period requested.

Our aim is to provide information whenever possible. However, in this instance, 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 will mean that the UK Government is 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 good relations 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 . There is no public interest in disclosing information when that will damage relationships and disrupt future communications.

In addition, an exemption under section s.29(1)(a) (formulation or development of Scottish Government policy) of FOISA applies to some of the information you have requested. Information withheld relates to development of policy on self-isolation for close contacts and households depending on potential future case rates and variants.

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 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 high quality policy and decision-making, and in the properly considered implementation and development of policies and decisions. This means that Ministers and officials need to be able to consider all available options and to debate those rigorously, to fully understand their possible implications. Their candour in doing so will be affected by their assessment of whether discussions will be disclosed in the near future, when it may undermine or constrain the Government’s view on that policy while it is still under discussion and development.

In addition, an exemption under section 30(b)(i) of FOISA applies to some of the information you have requested. S 30(b)(i) and 30(b)(ii) exemptions recognise the need for officials to have a private space within which to obtain advice, discuss issues and communicate freely in order to perform their functions properly. Disclosing the content of such advice/discussions will substantially inhibit the free and frank provision of advice and/or exchange of views in the future, particularly while discussions are ongoing and decisions have not been taken, and/or if those discussions relate to sensitive or controversial issues.

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. While we recognise there may be some public interest in the information requested, we recognise the need for a private space to allow open and frank discussion between Ministers and officials.

Some of the information requested is also available online and can be accessed here - https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.12.23.21268326v1.full. Under section 25(1) of FOISA, we do not have to give you information which is already reasonably accessible to you. If, however, you do not have internet access to obtain this information from the website(s) listed, then please contact me again and I will send you a paper copy.

About FOI

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.

FOI - 202200269448 - Information Released - Annex

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

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