Recommendations received by First Minister regarding COVID-19 lockdown guidance: FOI release

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

Information requested

1. “Between December 1, 2019 and March 31, 2020, all documents sent to the First Minister recommending Scotland should be put into lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic.”

2. “If this is not possible, the date on which the First Minister received the first recommendation for Scotland to be put into lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic.”


I apologise for the delay in responding to your request for information. The delay has arisen as a result of the sensitive nature of the material being reviewed in relation to your request. We are taking steps to ensure that FOI requests are processed timeously in future, and I apologise for the inconvenience on this occasion.

Question 1:
The First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon attended a Cabinet Office Briefing Room (COBR) meeting held on 23 March 2020 where the four nations discussed the emerging evidence and response to the COVID-19 outbreak. This meeting provided Ministers with the appropriate advice and recommendations on increased ‘social distancing’ also known as the ‘stay at home’ guidance which later became more commonly known as ‘lockdown’.

An exemption under Section 28(1) (Relations within the UK) of FOISA has been applied to the documentation within scope of this request. This exemption applies because disclosure would, or would be likely to, substantially inhibit our relationship with the UK Government.

This exemption is subject to the ‘public interest test’. Therefore, taking into account 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 an open, transparent and accountable government. However, there is a greater public interest in allowing a private space for ministers and officials to share information pertinent to a public health response across the four nations and to maintain this relationship to effectively respond to future threats. Disclosure of this 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.

It is important to note that the information supplied in this response only details information held by the Scottish Government. The UK Government and The Chief Medical Officer of Scotland are both a separate entities and you may wish to raise this request directly with them as they may hold documents relevant to your request. Further information on how to contact the a) UK Government can be found here, and b) CMO can be found here.

Question 2:

I can confirm the First Minister received the first recommendation for Scotland to impose increased ‘social distancing’ also know as the ‘Stay at Home’ guidance which later became more commonly known as ‘lockdown’ at the COBR meeting held on 23 March 2020.

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

The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
Regent Road

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