Information

Publication of information in the media about civil servants: FOI release

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


Information requested

Any policy or guidance you have on how the Scottish Government deals with the publication of information in the media about civil servants”. You noted a particular interest in “understanding the approach to the media seeking to publish damaging information about junior civil servants i.e. non-senior civil
service grade employees.

Response

There is no single policy or guidance setting out how the Scottish Government deals with the publication of information in the media about civil servants. However, a support protocol for staff named in the media is in place, which was last updated in January 2021, and can be adapted to cover some of what you request. This is provided for your information below, at Annex A.

The support protocol was developed to make staff aware when they had been named in the media and allow HR colleagues to take the necessary steps to support them. This helps to ensure the Scottish Government fulfils both its duty of care to employees and its responsibility to respond professionally to media enquiries.

No distinction in terms of support is made between junior and senior civil servants – the support offer and approach is the same, irrespective of grade. However, in the event a media outlet indicates it will name a junior civil servant or ultimately does publish that name, the Scottish Government News team would generally raise a complaint and ask for that name to be redacted in future news and online coverage.

In general terms, civil servants, when engaging with the media, are expected to adhere to the principles of the Civil Service Code. Scottish Government staff are not precluded from talking about their work in the media, but should seek authorisation for any contact they make with the media in an official capacity. Staff are also expected to adhere to the Scottish Government’s Social media policy - gov.scot (www.gov.scot).

Annex A: Support protocol for staff named in media – January 2021
This protocol does not extend to Ministers who are named in the media.

1. When we know or anticipate that a member of staff will be named in the media, News colleagues will inform Corporate Comms (reactive lead), who will in turn inform People Directorate. People Directorate will contact the member of staff in advance to inform them, offer further support and share lines (if appropriate).

2. Corporate Comms (reactive lead) will monitor media coverage on a daily basis to identify any subsequent coverage which names members of staff. Links will be shared, where available, with People Directorate who will then inform the individual and their line manager (if appropriate).

3. People Directorate will agree with named individuals whether they wish to be notified each time they are in the media, or only when the story has moved on/after a gap in time, as appropriate. There are occasions where individuals come directly to People Directorate when mentioned in the media. If this happens People Directorate will notify Corporate Comms colleagues in case any further advice/handling should be considered.

4. People Directorate and Corporate Communications will provide updates about progress against the individual steps taken in this protocol as and when they happen.

5. People Directorate will decide if further contact with named individuals is necessary based on their preferences and the nature/scale of the media coverage (e.g. from a DG, if senior level support is requested).

Out of hours support

Outside regular working hours, the following individuals should be contacted:

  • For People Directorate interests - <enter out of hours contacts for People Directorate>
  • For Corporate Communications interests – <enter out of hours contacts for Corporate Communications>

<Enter names of communication officers on call> will check coverage every weekend and on bank holidays, and ensure <enter out of hours contacts> are alerted to new coverage by text.

Reminder of advice for staff on dealing with media/social media
Staff are not obliged to talk to or engage with anyone, no matter how persistent. Consider muting personal social media profiles, making them private or turning off notifications and avoid checking for social media updates and engaging with other people on social media. If you are approached by the media either in person, by email, by phone or via social media or app – no response is required. Alternatively, a polite but firm confirmation that no
comment will be made is also appropriate. If individuals require help, support or advice from Communications, contact <enter name and contact number of corporate communications contact> or if unavailable contact People Directorate colleagues <enter name and contact number of People Directorate contact>. For urgent out of hours enquiries please contact the duty press officer on 0300 244 4000.

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

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