Publication - FOI/EIR release

Records of bullying, harassment or abuse allegations: FOI release

Published: 13 Jul 2020
Directorate:
People Directorate
Part of:
Public sector

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

Published:
13 Jul 2020
Records of bullying, harassment or abuse allegations: FOI release
FOI reference: FOI/202000018100
Date received: 21 Feb 2020
Date responded: 26 Jun 2020
Information requested

Any record of bullying, harassment or abuse allegations made against Scottish Government ministers, whether proved or disproved. Please limit to the time period 3 May 2007 to present.

· Any record of bullying, harassment or abuse allegations made against Director-Generals or Directors, whether proved or disproved. Please limit to the time period 5 May 2016 to present.

· All correspondence (including emails, attachments, typed or handwritten notes, letters, notes/records of phone calls, texts or instant messages, minutes of meetings, briefings or otherwise) between Fergus Ewing, special advisers, civil servants, officials and/or media/press team on the subject of bullying, harassment or abuse allegations against Fergus Ewing or media coverage of those allegations. Please limit to the time period 1 January 2018 to present.

· All correspondence (including emails, attachments, typed or handwritten notes, letters, notes/records of phone calls, texts or instant messages, minutes of meetings, briefings or otherwise) between Fergus Ewing and Nicola Sturgeon on the subject of bullying, harassment or abuse allegations against Fergus Ewing or media coverage of those allegations.

· Any guidance given to civil servants/staff working at Marine Scotland on the subject of bullying, harassment or abuse. Please limit to the time period 5 May 2016 to present.

Response

Our response covers permanent staff employed in SG Main (annex A).

Managers in the Scottish Government are encouraged to deal with concerns about internal harassment and/or bullying at an early stage, on an informal basis under the Fairness at Work Policy, where appropriate.

There is no requirement to report informal action to HR and therefore no information is held centrally about cases that have been dealt with informally. 

There have been 2 formal complaints of bullying, harassment or abuse allegations made against Scottish Government ministers from 3 May 2007 to present.

There have been 2 formal complaints of bullying, harassment or abuse allegations made against Director-Generals or Directors from 5 May 2016 to present.

In your request you have asked for all correspondence (including emails, attachments, typed or handwritten notes, letters, notes/records of phone calls, texts or instant messages, minutes of meetings, briefings or otherwise) between Fergus Ewing, special advisers, civil servants, officials and/or media/press team on the subject of bullying, harassment or abuse allegations against Fergus Ewing or media coverage of those allegations.

While we aim to provide information wherever possible, I am unable to provide some of this information because of the following exemptions:

An exemption under section 38(1)(b) of FOISA applies to some of the information. That exemption applies because the information is personal data of a third party/parties and disclosing it contravenes the data protection principles set out in the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), Regulation 2016/679 and section 34(1) of the Data Protection Act 2018.

An exemption under section 30(b)(i) of FOISA, free and frank provision of advice to official discussions, applies to some of the information. That exemption applies because disclosure would, or would be likely to, inhibit substantially the free and frank provision of advice.
The exemption recognises the need for officials to have a private space within which to provide free and frank advice to other officials about the handling of sensitive internal staffing matters. 

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 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 full and frank advice to other officials, as part of sensitive internal staffing matters. This private thinking space is essential to enable all options to be carefully considered, based on the best available advice.

I have provided information where possible and refer you to annex B of this response.

You also ask for all correspondence (including emails, attachments, typed or handwritten notes, letters, notes/records of phone calls, texts or instant messages, minutes of meetings, briefings or otherwise) between Fergus Ewing and Nicola Sturgeon on the subject of bullying, harassment or abuse allegations against Fergus Ewing or media coverage of those allegations.

This is a formal notice under section 17(1) of FOISA that the Scottish Government does not have the information you have requested.

Information relating to your final request, any guidance given to civil servants/staff working at Marine Scotland on the subject of bullying, harassment or abuse from 5 May 2016 to present, is contained in annex C.

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.

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
EH1 3DG