Publication - FOI/EIR release

Meetings or communications regarding currency: FOI release

Published: 5 Apr 2019

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

Published:
5 Apr 2019
Meetings or communications regarding currency: FOI release
FOI reference: FOI/19/00752
Date received: 14 Mar 2019
Date responded: 3 Apr 2019
Information requested

 

1. Any correspondence (letters, emails, minutes, call logs or otherwise) to/from Derek Mackay, the Cabinet Secretary for Finance that contain the terms: ‘new currency’; ‘Scottish pound’; ‘euro’; ‘currency union’, over a period from September 2018 to present.

2. Any correspondence (letters, emails, minutes, call logs or otherwise) to/from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon that contain the terms: ‘new currency’; ‘Scottish pound’; ‘euro’; ‘currency union’, over a period from September 2018 to present.

3. Any internal briefings or memos from within the Scottish Government that contain the terms: ‘new currency’; ‘Scottish pound’; ‘euro’; ‘currency union’, over a period from September 2018 to present.
4. Any diary entries/details that include the terms ‘new currency’; ‘Scottish pound’; ‘euro’; ‘currency union’, over a period from September 2018 to present.

5. Details and minutes of any meetings that took place between Derek Mackay and Nicola Sturgeon in which the terms ‘new currency’; ‘Scottish pound’; ‘euro’; ‘currency union’ were mentioned over a period from September 2018 to present.

6. Details and minutes of any meetings that took place between Derek Mackay and Keith Brown in which the terms ‘new currency’; ‘Scottish pound’; ‘euro’; ‘currency union’ were mentioned over a period from September 2018 to present.

 

Response

 

1. - 3.
While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance the costs of locating, retrieving and providing some of the information requested would exceed the upper cost limit of £600, as set out under FOISA. This is because after extensive searches of our records, we have identified thousands of items of information containing the term ‘Euro’ however, not necessarily referring to currency. The term ‘Euro’ is often used as an abbreviation for ‘Europe’, ‘European’ or ‘European Union’. As I’m sure you can appreciate, this covers information held by a wide range of different business areas across the Scottish Government. A few examples include transport classifications, agriculture payments, European Structural Funds and the UEFA Euro 2020 Championship. 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 narrowing the scope of your request in order that the costs can be brought below £600. For example, you could restrict your request to items of information on a specific topic, or items of information held by a specific business area of the Scottish Government, as this would allow us to limit the searches that would require to be conducted. You may also find it helpful to look at the Scottish Information Commissioner’s ‘Tips for requesting information under FOI and the EIRs’ at:
http://www.itspublicknowledge.info/YourRights/Tipsforrequesters.aspx.

3 items of information are enclosed with this letter and a further 4 are within Annex A of this letter containing the terms ‘new currency’, ‘Scottish pound’ and ‘currency union’. An exemption under section 38(1)(b) (Personal Information) applies to some of this information. The reasons why this exemption applies is explained in Annex B of this letter.
Exemptions under Section 30(b)(i) and 30(b)(ii) free and exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation (in relation to Ministerial briefings and lines to take) applies to some of the information requested. The reasons why these exemptions apply is explained in Annex B of this letter.

4.
The costs of locating, retrieving and providing all the information requested would exceed the upper cost limit of £600, as set out under FOISA. This is because in order to comply with this request we would have to check the diaries of every civil servant in the Scottish Government between 1 September 2018 to 14 March 2019 to determine if the terms ‘new currency’, ‘Scottish pound’, ‘euro’ or ‘currency union’ appeared in them or not.
You may, however, wish to consider reducing the scope of your request in order that the costs can be brought below £600. For example, you could restrict your request to a specific business area of the Scottish Government, as this would allow us to limit the searches that would require to be conducted.

5. & 6.
After an extensive search of diary records I can confirm that the Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Economy and Fair Work has not held any meetings with either the First Minister or Keith Brown MSP between 1 September 2018 and 14 March 2019 where the terms ‘new currency’, ‘Scottish pound’, ‘euro’ or ‘currency union’ were mentioned, nor can relevant officials recall any such meetings taking place. This is a formal notice under section 17(1) of FOISA that the Scottish Government does not have the information you have requested.

 

Annex A

This annex contains 4 items which are extracts. They are provided as extracts because they are taken from correspondence, briefings and emails containing information outside the scope of your request.

Item 1
Extract from internal email about First Minister’s Questions on 7 March 2019, as reported from the BBC News website:
12:11:
'Just rule it out and let Scotland move on' – Carlaw Mr Carlaw says the SNP is preparing to launch a new currency which will throw Scotland's economy into chaos and says it is planning an illegal independence referendum. "Just rule it out and let Scotland move on," he says.
12:19: Scotland Labour will 'never recover in Scotland' without supporting independence – FM Mr Leonard says £40bn of foreign exchange reserves would be required for a new currency to be established. This is not about the best interests of the people of Scotland, it is about the best interests of the SNP, he says. The first minister says if Scotland was independent now, it would not be facing being taken out of the EU in three weeks. She says Scottish Labour will "never recover in Scotland" until the party stands up for Scotland and against Tory rule.

Item 2
Extract from draft speech for the Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Economy and Fair Work when he attended the Business for Scotland Annual Dinner on 29 September 2018:
Currency was widely viewed a one of the reasons why we came up short in 2014. The growth commission suggests that upon independence we retain the pound for as long as it remains in our economic interest to do so, while setting out the tests that we would apply in adopting any new currency.
Some people have argued that we should be looking to set up a new currency on day one of independence. While I do not doubt the sincerity of those making that argument the steps that would be required to achieve this would mean that independence would have to be delayed.

Item 3
Extract below is from an internal briefing reporting Portfolio Questions in the Scottish Parliament on 11 March 2019:
Finance, Economy, and Fair Work Portfolio Questions Dean Lockhart (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con): Last week, the cabinet secretary announced that Scotland’s economy might adopt a new currency in the event of independence. Given the potential significance of that proposal, I assume that he has made a full assessment of the financial consequences of such plans. Will he therefore confirm the level of reserves that would be required for the establishment of a new Scottish central bank? How would such reserves be funded?
Derek Mackay: That question is quite far away from the original one that was posed. [Interruption.] I am more than happy to answer it; I am just not sure that I can do so in the timescale that I have been given by the Presiding Officer. I know the proposition that we have set out in the growth commission’s report and which I will present to the Scottish National Party’s party conference. I no longer chair the conference but I will be happy to attend it in my party capacity. Considering that I have been asked about potential Scottish National Party policy, I will just say that this is an area where we can use the levers and tools that come with independence to make our country more prosperous and fairer. All the small advanced economies around the globe that are doing better than Scotland have only one thing that Scotland does not have—independence—and that is what we intend to get.

Item 4
Extract below is from briefing for the First Minister for the British-Irish Council summit on 9 November 2018, giving information about the Channel Islands of Jersey and Guernsey:
Currency: use of sterling, banking structure inc regulation, bonds and credit rating.
 In currency union with the United Kingdom.
 Own system of financial regulation – operate as offshore financial sector.
 Credit ratings downgraded to AA- (July 2016) as a result of Brexit uncertainty.

 

Annex B
REASONS FOR NOT PROVIDING INFORMATION

Exemptions under Section 30(b)(i) and 30(b)(ii) free and exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation (in relation to Ministerial briefings and lines to take) applies to some of the information requested. This exemption applies because disclosure would, or would be likely to, inhibit substantially the free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation. This exemption recognises 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. Disclosing the content of free and frank discussions relating to Scotland’s future will substantially inhibit such discussions in the future, particularly because these discussions are still ongoing and decisions have not been taken.

These exemptions are 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 exemptions. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exemptions. 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 allowing a private space within which officials can provide free and frank advice and views to Ministers in briefing for SPQ answer(s)/ press lines/ lines to take. It is clearly in the public interest that Ministers can properly answer Parliamentary questions, provide sound information to Parliament (to which they are accountable), and robustly defend the Government’s policies and decisions. They need full and candid advice from officials to enable them to do so. Premature disclosure of this type of information could lead to a reduction in the comprehensiveness and frankness of such advice and views in the future, which would not be in the public interest.

An exemption under section 38(1)(b) of FOISA (personal information) 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 Schedule 1 to the Data Protection Act 1998.

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.

foi-19-00752 Documents 1,2 & 3

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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
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