Numbers of Special Advisers since 2011: FOI release

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

FOI reference: FOI/18/01745
Date received: 16 June 2018
Date responded: 27 July 2018

Information requested

"Under The Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002, I would be obliged if you could send me, in electronic and letter form, I wish to know the number of Government Special Advisors appointed by the Scottish Government/Executive since April 2011 to the present date, 16th June 2018. For all branches and departments of the Scottish Government/Executive.

To be broken down by each year the total number employed, by each department and branch, to include the total budget required, broken down by year, department and branch, this to include all expenses, moving costs, pension payments, wages, travel expenses, bonuses."

On 27 June you clarified the reference to all expenses:

"Where the SpAd has submitted expenses to their relevant department head for approval and these have been paid, list all the items that have been claimed for and paid for."

On 3 July you submitted further clarification:

"I wish to know all the things that the SpAd's are claiming expenses for, these need to be listed, and the what the payment is for these. I gave examples only to clarify what I considered to be expenses, but anything they have claimed for, even down to a Taxi between buildings needs to be listed."


Under the terms of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010, the First Minister is responsible for all Special Adviser appointments and is required to prepare an annual report setting out the number and cost of Special Advisers and to lay it before the Scottish Parliament. Therefore, some of the information that you have requested about Special Advisers has been provided previously in response to Written Scottish Parliamentary Questions (PQs). Under section 25(1) of FOISA, we do not have to provide you with information if it is already reasonably accessible to you. All Scottish PQs and their replies are published on the Scottish Parliament website. The search facility is available at:

All information is provided in financial year format. The reference numbers are:

2006-07 to 2011-12 S4W-10032 – answered on 4 October 2012

2012-13 S4W-17608 – answered on 3 October 2013

2013-14 S4W-25214 – answered on 2 April 2015

2014-15 S4W-26746 – answered on 17 July 2015

2015-16 S5W-00837 – answered on 20 June 2016

2016-17 S5W-12960 – answered on 24 November 2017

2017/18 S5W-17596 – answered on 5 July 2018

The Answers to the PQs include all salary costs, ERNIC and employer pension contributions. No relocation costs have been paid. The Scottish Government does not pay non-consolidated performance awards (bonuses). The information relating to salary costs for the current year will not be published until after the end of the 2018/19 financial year.

Special Adviser expenses and travel and subsistence costs are provided below. These figures include expenses claimed through the Scottish Government iExpenses system and Travel & Subsistence Charge Card and expenditure under the Scottish Government travel and accommodation contracts. These expenses are primarily incurred by Special Advisers in supporting the First Minister and Scottish Ministers at events in other parts of the United Kingdom, including intergovernmental negotiations and on foreign visits to Europe and the United States of America taking forward the Scottish Government's programme.

YEAR (a) iExpenses (b) Hotel (c) Travel
2011 Data not held Data not held Data not held
2012 Data not held Data not held Data not held
2013 £1921.11 Data not held Data not held
2014 £2893.70 £6,350.42 £6,208.70
2015 £2074.20 Data not held Data not held
2016 £1509.19 £4,244.64 £11,146.22

(a) Information for 2011-12 not held as the iExpenses system only provides data back to financial year 2012-13

(b) Data not held in relation to hotel costs indicates that information is not held on an individually identifiable basis

(c) Rail, Air and Taxi Hire (Edinburgh and Glasgow). Car hire costs are not held for these years. Data not held in relation to travel expenses indicates that information is not held on an individually identifiable basis

The Scottish Government cannot provide an itemised list of all costs claimed and paid for Travel and Subsistence expenses as this information is not held centrally. The information held is by expense type for the period of 4 years (the current financial year plus 3 years). This would not provide an itemised breakdown by expense type as requested.

The information relating to the calendar year 2017 and January to March 2018 has already been published in response to FOI/18/01661 /publications/foi-18-01661/

An exemption under section 27(1) of FOISA applies to some of the information requested because we intend to publish information relating to travel and subsistence expenses from 1 April to 30 June 2018 by mid-August 2018 which is within 12 weeks of the date of your request. We consider that it is reasonable to withhold the information until that date.

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 in order to have the most up to date figures, and this will be met by our planned publication. In the meantime, there is a greater public interest in taking the time necessary to ensure the information has been properly collated and checked before it is published as planned. Also, we see no public interest in disrupting our programme of work to release the information ahead of the intended publication date.

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Please quote the FOI reference

Central Enquiry Unit
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
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