"Please provide me with all correspondence, briefing notes, internal papers and memos and attachments concerning the pandas at Edinburgh Zoo from 2023.
Please include any information concerning plans for them to be returned to China.
Please include all correspondence and information held by your international office in China."
I enclose a copy of some of the information you requested. You will find this information in Annex A.
Most of the information you have requested is available from Scottish Government Publications, which can be accessed here: Edinburgh Zoo Pandas return to China: EIR release - gov.scot (www.gov.scot). Under regulation 6(1)(b) of the EIRs, we do not have to give you information which is already publicly available and easily accessible to you in another form or format. If, however, you do not have internet access to obtain this information from the website listed, then please contact me again and I will send you a paper copy.
An exception under regulation 11(2) of the EIRs (personal information) applies to some of the information requested because it is personal data of a third party 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 exception 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 exception.
An exception under regulation 10(5)(a) International Relations of the EIRs applies to some of the information you have requested. This applies as disclosure of this information would, or would be likely to substantially prejudice international relations, defence, national security or public safety. This exception 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 exception. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exception. We recognise that there is some public interest in release because of interest in the return of the pandas at Edinburgh Zoo. However, this is outweighed by the public interest in ensuring disclosure does not compromise any future co-operation with the UK in areas of vital interests to the UK.
An exception under regulation 10(5)(f) of the EIRs (substantial prejudice to interests of person who provided the information) applies to the remainder of the information you have requested. This exception applies because disclosure of this particular information would, or would be likely to, prejudice substantially the interests of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland who provided that information to the Scottish Government. They:
- were not under any legal obligation to give us that information;
- did not supply it in circumstances in which it could, apart from the EIRs, be made available;
- and have not consented to disclosure.
This exception 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 exception. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exception. We recognise that there is a public interest in disclosing information as part of open and transparent government. However, there is a greater public interest in protecting the interests of anyone, such as Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, who provides the Scottish Government with information on a confidential basis. Disclosing such information against the express wishes of the stakeholder is likely to undermine their trust in the Government and make them reluctant in future to share information with us on issues such as these. This would significantly impair the Scottish Government’s ability to develop policies and make decisions on the basis of fully informed advice and evidence. This would not be in the public interest.
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.
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Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Phone: 0300 244 4000
The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
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