- 26 Oct 2020
Date received: 17 Jan 2019
Date responded: 19 Oct 2020
Information concerning contact between Ms. Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister, her Government and her staff and Mr Alex Salmond, Former First Minister and his representatives in the period 1st January 2018 and 31st December 2018:
Dates and times of contact, meetings and phone calls
Details of who was present at meetings, who was involved in the phone calls and who else was present or listening in
Details of notes and transcripts taken during these meetings and phone calls
Reports made to officials after meetings and phone calls had happened and details of these reports.
Following your appeal to the Scottish Information Commissioner, the Commissioner required the Scottish Ministers to:
- disclose Documents 1 and 2 to you
- carry out a new review of our handling of your request, and substitute a new decision
Documents 1 and 2
I enclose a copy of Documents 1 and 2.
You may wish to be aware that the Scottish Ministers’ position is that one paragraph of Document 1 is exempt information for the purposes of FOISA, and so ought not to be disclosed. As the Commissioner has required the Ministers to take the step of disclosing Document 1 in its entirety, they have appealed the decision of the Commissioner, insofar as it requires that Document 1 be disclosed in its entirety, to the Court of Session, in terms of section 56 of FOISA.
Section 49(7) of FOISA provides that, if an appeal is brought, no step which is affected by the appeal need be taken before the appeal is determined. Accordingly, we have not disclosed the affected paragraph to you at this time, pending the outcome of the appeal.
In compliance with the Commissioner’s Decision, we have now completed our review of our response to your request.
I have concluded that a different decision should be substituted, as follows:
In light of the Commissioner’s Decision, we have considered Document 3 (which consists of an exchange of WhatsApp messages between the First Minister and Alex Salmond) of new. I enclose a copy of the information that you have requested in Document 3. We consider that the information that is within scope falls within the first limb of your request (i.e. it is the dates and times of contact, meetings and phone calls). For the avoidance of doubt, we consider that the dates and times of each WhatsApp message are within scope because each message is an instance of contact, but we consider that the content of each message (except where disclosed) is out of scope because the content does not fall within any part of your request.
We have revisited the searches that were carried out in connection with your request. We confirm that the only information that falls within the scope of your request is contained in Documents 1, 2 and 3. In our view, Documents 1 and 2 fall within the fourth limb of your request, and Document 3 falls within the first limb.
For completeness, we would remind you that in our initial response to you of 13 February 2019 we indicated that some of the information you requested in relation to the first limb of your request was otherwise reasonably accessible to you, in terms of section 25(1) of FOISA. We referred you to the Scottish Parliament Official Report for 8 January 2019, which can be obtained at http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/report.aspx?r=11871. In our review response of 27 March 2019, we also referred you to the Official Report of 10 January 2019, though I regret that we did not provide a link to it. It can be obtained at https://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/28862.aspx?r=11875. It remains our position that some of the information you requested in relation to the first limb of your request was otherwise accessible to you, in that it could be accessed from the First Minister’s statements to the Parliament on those dates.
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
Phone: 0300 244 4000
The Scottish Government
St Andrews House