Publication - FOI/EIR release

COVID-19 European Convention on Human Rights compliance regarding visiting places of worship: FOI release

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

Published:
12 Apr 2021
COVID-19 European Convention on Human Rights compliance regarding visiting places of worship: FOI release
FOI reference: FOI/202100141123
Date received: 13 Jan 2021
Date responded: 22 Feb 2021
Information requested

1. Under Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights governments of religious practice may only be subject to limitations "as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others". 

(a). Was an ECHR compliant proportionality exercise conducted?

(b). If 1a is answered affirmatively, please release the assessment of ECHR compliance and any documentation and/or evidence underpinning it. Alternatively, if 1a is answered negatively, on what basis was it determined that an ECHR proportionality exercise was not required, how was this determined and which politicians, officials and advisers were involved in making that determination.

2(a). Please release all data collected on the number of people who reported visiting a place of worship and/or attending a religious service in the days prior to being diagnosed with Covid-19.

(b). Please release all contextual information available in relation to the above, including but not limited to: the total number of locations reported at each time point, a breakdown of other locations reported for each data point (e.g. the number of infected persons who attended school/university), the number of other contacts reported individuals who reported attending a religious service and if available the proportion of infected people for whom data was acquired who reported visiting a place of worship and/or attending a religious service in the days prior to being diagnosed with Covid-19.

Response

In response to part 1a of your request, the Scottish Government undertook the necessary ECHR Article 9 proportionality considerations when introducing the recent enhanced ‘stay at home’ measures.

In response to part 1b of your request, some of the information you have requested is available online. The Equality Impact Assessment which accompanies the Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions and Requirements) (Local Levels) (Scotland) Amendment (No. 11) Regulations 2021 can be found here: The Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions and Requirements) (Local Levels) (Scotland) Amendment (No. 11) Regulations 2021 (legislation.gov.uk)

Further evidence underpinning the decision to introduce additional measures for level 4 local authority areas is available in the State of the Epidemic in Scotland report published on 04 January 2021, which can be found here: Coronavirus (COVID-19): state of the epidemic in Scotland 4 January 2021 - gov.scot (www.gov.scot)

Under section 25(1) of FOISA, we do not have to give you information which is already reasonably accessible to you. If, however, you do not have internet access to obtain this information from the websites listed, then please contact me again and I will send you a paper copy.

I also enclose a copy of some of the information you have requested at Annex A as outlined below.

Documents included in Annex A:

1. HARM 1 - The Direct Impact of COVID – Places of Worship - 21 December 2020
2. Email from Connected Communities Unit Head to Coronavirus Legislation Co-ordination – Places of Worship – 23 December 2020
3. Submission to the Cabinet Secretary for Communities on the Tightening of Places of Worship – 29 December 2020
4. Email from Head of COVID Analysis regarding 4 Harms – Places of Worship – 31 December 2020

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), section 30(b)(ii) (free and frank exchange of views) and section 36(1) (legal advice) of FOISA applies to that information. The reasons why these exemptions have been applied are explained in the Annex to this letter (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:
https://www.parliament.scot/General%20Documents/20210120_DFM_Letter_to_Covid_Cttee_re_Enhanced_Restrictions

In relation to part 2 of your request, while our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instancethe Scottish Government does not hold the information you have requested. This is because Public Health Scotland are responsible for the information relating to this data collection.

This is a formal notice under section 17(1) of FOISA that the Scottish Government does not have the information for this part of your request.

However, you may wish to contact Public Health Scotland at Information requests - Contact us - Public Health Scotland who may be able to help you.

About FOI

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Contact

Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Email: ceu@gov.scot
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
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