Correspondence involving National Clinical Director regarding place of worship: FOI release

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

Information requested

Correspondence sent or received by the Prof Jason Leitch (National Clinical Director) relating to Covid-19 restrictions on public worship, and in particular the closure of places of worship for public services in January 2021.

You further specified that:

"In the event that this request is deemed to cost over £600 under the terms of section 12 of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA) please release all correspondence to/from Prof Jason Leith relating to the same topic from 01/12/2020 through the date this request is actioned (or the latest possible date).”


While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance the costs of locating, retrieving and providing the information requested would exceed the upper cost limit of £600. This is because there is a high volume of both internal and external correspondence which would need to be considered within the scope of your request since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. Under section 12 of FOISA public authorities are not required to comply with a request for information if the authority estimates that the cost of complying would exceed the upper cost limit, which is currently set at £600 by Regulations made under section 12.

However, I note that your initial request considered reducing the scope of your request in such an instance in order that the costs can be brought below £600. The scope of your request has therefore been considered from the 01 December 2020 to the 14 January 2021, the date on which we received your request for information.

Attached is a copy of the information requested in Annex A as outlined below. 

Documents included in Annex A:
1. Email exchange on development of Christmas bubble media lines – 22 December 2020.

2. Correspondence on submission on tightening of restrictions at level 4 – 29 December 2020.

3. Submission on tightening of restrictions at level 4 – 29 December 2020.

4. Email from Head of Covid Analysis - 31 December 2020.

5. Email exchange on the closure of places of worship – 05 January 2021.

6. Attachment to email 05/01/2021 – BCoS statement - 05 January 2021.

7. Connected Communities correspondence ahead of the meeting with faith and belief representatives - 06 January 2021.

8. Email exchange around outbreak data in places of worship – 06 January 2021.

9. Email exchange on response to media enquiry – 10 January 2021.

10. Email exchange – media enquiry – Church leaders letter to the First Minister – 11 January 2021.

An exemption under section 38(1)(b) of FOISA (personal information) applies to some of the information in the above noted documents because it is personal data of a third party, i.e. names or contact details of individuals, and disclosing it would contravene the data protection principles in Article 5(1) of the UK 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.

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 an exemption applies. Exemptions under section 29(1)(a) (policy formulation), section 30(b)(i) (free and frank advice), and section 30(b)(ii) (free and frank exchange of views) of FOISA applies to that information. The reasons why these exemptions have been applied are explained in the Annex B.

You may find it helpful to note that the Deputy First Minister provided evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Covid Committee on the enhanced restrictions for places of worship. This letter is available on the Scottish Parliament website:

About FOI
The Scottish Government is committed to publishing all information released in response to Freedom of Information requests. View all FOI responses at

FOI202100141118 - Annex A
FOI202100141118 - 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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