Information

Details of preparations for Papal visit during COP26: FOI release

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


Information requested

A copy of all preparations by the Scottish Government to have: welcomed the visit of His Holiness Pope Francis to Scotland, accommodated any attempt by the Holy Father to have communicated Divine Mercy to the government within the Scottish Parliament, and thanked the Pope upon departing Scotland.

Response

I attach a copy of the information you requested, in the form of two email exchanges. 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 exemptions under sections of FOISA apply to that information, and therefore some of the information in the email exchanges has been redacted.

Section 30(b)(i) and (ii) – Free and frank provision of advice and exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation

Exemptions under section 30(b)(i) and (ii) of FOISA apply to some of the information requested because disclosure would, or would be likely to, inhibit substantially the free and frank provision of advice and exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation. The exemptions recognise 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 or course of action. Disclosing the content of free and frank discussions regarding the Pope's possible visit to Scotland will substantially inhibit such discussions in the future, and these decisions relate to sensitive issues including relations with a sovereign state.

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.

Section 32(1)(a) – International relations

An exemption under section 32(1)(a)(i) of FOISA applies to some of the information requested because disclosure would, or would be likely to, prejudice substantially relations between the United Kingdom and the Vatican City State. The effective conduct of international relations depends upon maintaining trust and confidence between the UK Government and other States. In this case, disclosing information about the details of conversations around the Pope's possible visit to Scotland would substantially prejudice relations between the United Kingdom and the Vatican City State.

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 ensuring that the UK Government is able to maintain good relations with other States, in order to protect and promote UK interests. There can be no public interest in jeopardising those relations by the Scottish Government disclosing this information.

Section 38(1)(b) – Personal information

An exemption under section 38(1)(b) applies to some of the information requested because it is personal data of a third party (i.e. names/contact details of individuals), 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 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.

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 Andrews House
Regent Road
Edinburgh
EH1 3DG

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