Publication - FOI/EIR release

Communications with Religious Orders: FOI release

Published: 13 Apr 2018

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

Published:
13 Apr 2018
Communications with Religious Orders: FOI release

FOI reference: FOI/18/00409, FOI/18/00410 and FOI 18/00519
Date received: 8 February 2018
Date responded: 8 March 2018

Information requested

1. 'All correspondence to and from the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills between May 2016 and February 2018 to and from The Church of Scotland, Scottish Bishops' Conference, Diocese of Aberdeen (Bishop of Aberdeen), Diocese of Argyll and the Isles (Bishop of Argyll and the Isles), Diocese of Dunkeld (Bishop of Dunkeld), Diocese of Galloway (Bishop of Galloway), Archdiocese of Glasgow (Archbishop of Glasgow), Diocese of Motherwell (Bishop of Motherwell), Diocese of Paisley (Bishop of Paisley), Archdiocese of St. Andrews and Edinburgh (Archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh), Action of Churches Together in Scotland, Scottish Catholic Media Office, Catholic Parliamentary Office, Scottish Episcopal Church, Scottish Churches Parliamentary Office, Scottish Catholic Education Service, Muslim Council of Scotland, Free Church of Scotland and Scottish Council of Jewish Communities.' [FoI/18/00409]

2. 'All correspondence to and from Scottish ministers regarding or including information about Religious Observance in Scottish schools between November 2015 and February 2018. [FoI/18/00410]

3. 'Any briefing papers, notes, advice or other information supplied to Scottish ministers regarding or including information about Religious Observance [in Scottish schools] between November 2015 and February 2018.' [FOI/18/00519]

Response

I enclose a copy of the relevant information which I have attached below. The documents have been sorted by FOI request, and are provided in order of date.

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 we concluded that an exemption under the FOISA applies to that information. The reasons why the relevant exemptions apply are explained below.

Reasons for not providing information

In relation to FoI/18/00409 and FoI/18/00410 an exemption under section 38(1)(b) of FOISA (personal information) applies to some of the information because it is personal data of a third party and disclosing it would contravene the data protection principles in Schedule 1 to the Data Protection Act 1998. 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 36(1) of FOISA (confidentiality in legal proceedings) applies to some of the information requested FOI/18/00519 because it is legal advice and disclosure would breach legal professional privilege. In every case, the exemption has meant a redaction of information within the documents supplied in this response rather than exemption of entire document.

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 release as part of open and transparent government, and to inform public debate. However, this is outweighed by the strong public interest in maintaining the right to confidentiality of communications between legal advisers and clients, to ensure that Ministers and officials are able to receive legal advice in confidence, like any other public or private organisation.

In addition, we concluded that an exemption under section 30(b)(ii) of FOISA (free and frank exchange of views) applies to some of the information requested in FOI/18/00519. In every case, the exemption has meant a a redaction of information within the documents supplied in this response rather than exemption of entire document. This exemption applies because disclosure would, or would be likely to, inhibit substantially the free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation. This exemption recognises the need for Ministers and officials to have a private space within which to discuss and explore options before the Scottish Government reaches a settled public view. Disclosing the content of free and frank discussions on religious observance in school will substantially inhibit such discussions in the future, particularly because these discussions are still on-going.

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 Ministers and officials a private space within which to explore and refine the Government's policy position religious observance in schools.

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

Contact

Please quote the FOI reference

Central Enquiry Unit
Email: ceu@gov.scot
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
Regent Road
Edinburgh
EH1 3DG