Operation Unicorn: FOI release

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

Information requested

  1. The costs of planning for Operation Unicorn (plans to be enacted if the Queen were to die in Scotland) to the Scottish Government, broken down by budget line.
  2. Any correspondence sent by Scottish Government ministers or officials referencing the Queen or Operation Unicorn between September 9 of this year and September 19. For clarity, correspondence should include, but not be limited to, emails, text or other instant messages and briefing notes.


  1. You did not specify a timescale within your request. What is set out below are the identifiable costs incurred during the planning phase since Financial Year 2017/18. These figures include VAT and have not been adjusted for inflation and have been rounded to the nearest £K.

    Throughout the planning phase, the Scottish Government held a contract with Arcadis. The scope of this contract included the procurement of suppliers for stewarding, scaffolding and other infrastructure to be deployed on activation as well as assistance with technical elements of planning. The current contract with Arcadis has been in place since August 2021. The first contract with Arcadis, under the name of its predecessor company name, EC Harris, commenced in 2009. Arcadis costs during the period in question total around £699,000.

    A Readiness Review (an independent peer review process that examines projects and programmes at key points in their lifecycles) was undertaken in 2017 at a cost of approximately £11,000.

    A series of multi-agency Planning Exercises were held in 2018 and 2019. Costs incurred totalled around £4,000 and were principally for providing food and refreshments for participants.

    In 2020 around £500,000 was transferred to the City of Edinburgh Council for the purchase of barriers and other infrastructure for the purpose of ensuring public safety upon activation. Approximately £470,000 has been spent and the balance will be returned to the Scottish Government in due course, once reconciliation is complete.

    In 2021 Transport Scotland commissioned Jacobs to scope the impact of Ceremonial Events taking place in Scotland. The cost of this report totalled approximately £284,000.

    Within this financial year, some staff have been enagaged on a fixed-term basis to assist with planning for activation of the Operation, including the internal Scottish Government response and arrangements for the Lying-at-Rest queue, at a total cost of £31,000.

    The Scottish Government does not hold records of the permanent Scottish Government staffing costs associated with Operation Unicorn. No assessment of permanent Scottish Government staffing costs has been made. No member of staff within the Scottish Government was employed specifically to work on Operation Unicorn. Instead, a number of staff, across various disciplines, had Operation Unicorn responsibilities within their job descriptions.
Description Costs From FY17/18 Onwards
Arcadis Costs £699,000
Readiness Review £11,000
Transport Scotland Consultants £284,000
Barriers and assocated infrastructure – City of Edinburgh Council £470,000
Fixed Term Contract Employment Costs £31,000
Testing & Exercising £4,000
Total £1,499,000
  1. 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. The reason for this is that to locate and retrieve that information, we would need to conduct a search of all of the records of the Scottish Government. As you might expect the news of Her Majesty’s death and the subsequent acitivation of Operation Unicorn impacted the work of business areas across the Scottish Government. It is likely therefore that all teams within the organisation will have had exchanges referencing The Queen and/or Operation Unicorn over the period referred to in your request.

    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.

    You may, however, wish to consider reducing the scope of your request in order that the costs can be brought below £600 by focusing the scope of your request.

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.


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

The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
Regent Road

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