Information

COVID-19 Communications between Scottish Government and Lady Poole: FOI release

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


Information requested

All documents and record of communications between the Scottish Government and Lady Poole, the chairwoman of Scotland’s Covid-19 inquiry. This can relate to any letters, emails, any electronic communication such as text and WhatsApp messages, and minutes of any meetings or phone calls Lady Poole had with ministers or officials. The time frame would be from 00:01 on 1st August to the end of today’s date, 23:59 on 3rd October.

Response

I sincerely apologise for the delay in responding to your request, which was due to the complexity and sensitivity of the information covered, together with the pressures of other urgent work.

I address your request below, providing some of the information you have requested, which is attached as 'Annex A'. An attachment discussed in documents 3 and 4 is attached as a separate PDF document, 'Annex B'.

Some of the information you have requested is exempt from disclosure because exemptions under section 30(b)(ii) (free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation), 30(c) (effective conduct of public affairs), sections 37(1)(b)(i) and 37(1)(b)(ii) (Court records, etc) and section 38(1)(b) (personal information) of FOISA apply to that information. The reasons why these exemptions apply are explained in the following paragraphs.

Exemptions apply, not subject to the public interest test
Section 37(1)(b)(i) and 37(1)(b)(ii) – Court records, etc.

Exemptions under sections 37(1)(b)(i) and 37(1)(b)(ii) of FOISA apply to some of the information you have requested. The exemptions apply to information which has been placed in the custody of a person conducting an inquiry, for the purposes of that inquiry, and to information which has been created by a person conducting an inquiry, for the purposes of that inquiry. 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.

Section 38(1)(b) – applicant has asked for personal data of a third party.
An exemption under section 38(1)(b) of FOISA (personal information) applies to some of the information requested as it is personal data of a third party, i.e. names and contact details of individuals, and disclosing 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 has been applied where necessary throughout the response. 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.
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Exemptions apply, subject to the public interest test
Section 30(b)(ii) – the free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation.

An exemption under section 30(b)(ii) of FOISA applies to some of the information you have requested. Disclosing this information is likely to cause substantial inhibition to the free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation.

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 some public interest in disclosing information as part of open, transparent and accountable government. However, there is a greater public interest in protecting the independent operation of the Scottish Covid-19 Inquiry and the process of carrying out its work, and in ensuring that the Inquiry is able to carry out its work effectively. This includes protecting the space in which the Chair may discuss matters relating to the establishment of the Inquiry with Scottish Government and Scottish Ministers within their role and responsibilities as its sponsor.

Section 30 (c) – substantial prejudice to the effective conduct of public affairs.
An exemption under section 30(c) of FOISA (prejudice to effective conduct of public affairs) applies to some of the information requested. Disclosing this information would substantially prejudice the independent work of the Scottish Covid-19 Inquiry by revealing information on matters relating to the operation and approach of the Inquiry. This would constitute substantial prejudice to the effective conduct of public affairs in terms of the exemption.

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. However, there is a greater public interest in protecting the independent operation of the Scottish Covid-19 Inquiry and the process of carrying out its work, and​​​​​​​ in ensuring that the Inquiry is able to carry out its work effectively.

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 202200323026 - Information Released - Annex A

FOI 202200323026 - Information Released - Annex B

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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