Communications relating to 2021 drug death statistics: FOI release

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

Information requested

Email or written correspondence from the Scottish Government media department concerning the First Minister's official media statement on the latest NRC report on drug deaths 2021.

Specifically the correspondence between the team or individuals who were responsible for helping put together Nicola Sturgeon's statement that addressed the latest drugs death figures. Please release all correspondence that shows how the statement was composed and the drafting process.

Email correspondence from the Scottish Government which reveals initial government reactions to the publication of the NRS report and any correspondence that informed the relevant ministers about the report.


In response to your request I attach a copy of all emails discussing the preparation of the media statement responding to the NRS Drug-related Deaths, 2021 Report in July. This was prepared for the Minister for Drugs Policy Angela Constance, not the First Minister.

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 38(1)(b) and 30(b)(i) of FOISA apply to that information. The reasons why those exemptions apply are explained in the Annex A to this letter.

The following documents are attached:

  • Annex B – Emails concerning the drafting of the media statement and planning for a Ministerial visit to permit media interviews to address the statistical publication.

Exemptions apply, subject to the public interest test an exemption under section 38(1)(b) of FOISA (personal information) applies to some of the information requested because it is personal data of a third party, ie names/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 under section 30(b)(i) of FOISA (free and frank provision of advice) applies to some of the information requested. This exemption applies because disclosure would, or would be likely to, inhibit substantially the free and frank provision of advice. This exemption recognises the need for officials to have a private space within which to provide free and frank advice to Ministers before the Scottish Government reaches a settled public view. Disclosing the content of free and frank advice on preparing the Government response to the statistics will substantially inhibit the provision of such advice in the future, particularly because these discussions relate to the sensitive issue of drug-related deaths and the provision of care to those misusing drugs and alcohol.

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 a private space within which officials can provide full and frank advice to Ministers as part of the process of exploring and refining the Government’s position on tackling the drugs death emergency.

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 202200313479 - Information Released - Annex B


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

The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
Regent Road

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