First Minister at Edinburgh Book Festival and Edinburgh Fringe Festival: FOI release

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

Information requested

All briefing papers, emails and notes from all and any Scottish Government official, civil servant or anyone else being paid by the public purse to the First Minister relating about her various appearances at the Edinburgh Book Festival and Edinburgh Festival or Fringe.

The information I request is to include the summaries/key points of any books that she has publicly discussed, written for Ms Sturgeon’s information by others.

In addition, I would also like minutes of any and all First Minister/Government official/civil servant briefing meetings designed to furnish the First Minister with the information prior to taking part in public events.


The First Minister attended the following events. The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo is included for completeness:

  • 05 August 2019 – Iain Dale All Talk – Edinburgh International Festival
  • 10 August 2019 – Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo – as the salute taker
  • 15 August 2019 – Red Dust Road – Edinburgh International Festival
  • 19 August 2019 – In Conversation with Arundhati Roy – Edinburgh International Book Festival
  • 20 August 2019 – Podcast with Matt Forde – Fringe
  • 25 August 2019 – Northern Lights at the Edinburgh International Book Festival

Attached in Annex A is the following information

Emails and associated ‘Ops Notes’ provided to the First Minister ahead of the events shown above; factual briefing notes regarding the REMT, Arundhati Roy, and Northern Lights events; and a media bid for the Matt Forde event.

There are no minutes of any briefing meetings regarding providing this information to the First Minister prior to the events. Minutes are not taken of courtesy conversations where no policy decisions arise.

Reasons for not providing information - Annex
An exemption under section 38(1)(b) of FOISA (personal information) applies to some parts of the information requested because it is personal data of a third party, for example names of individuals or other personal data, and that information has been redacted. 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.

An exemption under sections 30(b)(i) and 30(b)(ii) of FOISA (free and frank advice and exchange of views) apply to some the information requested. These exemptions apply 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 to have a private space within which to seek advice and views from officials before reaching the settled public position which will be given in whatever final lines to take are used. Disclosing the content of free and frank briefing material on issues of policy will substantially inhibit such briefing in the future. 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 when providing lines to take. It is clearly in the public interest that Ministers can properly outline the Government’s position and policies. 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.

About FOI
The Scottish Government is committed to publishing all information released in response to Freedom of Information requests. View all FOI responses at

FOI-201900003434 - Information Released


Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
Regent Road

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