Information

Preparations and costs of Independence Prospectus: FOI release

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


Information requested

In September, the First Minister announced that Scottish Government civil servants would start work on a detailed prospectus for independence (as reported here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland politics-58478187).

On 4th November 2021, I submitted a Freedom of Information request which asked for information on this work (your reference 202100252928); on 3rd December 2021, I received a response which told me that the Scottish Government did not have the information I requested, because scoping work was under way.

On 14th December 2021, after the Scottish Government 2022-23 budget had been announced, I submitted a further Freedom of Information request (your reference 202100264359). This was similar to the request of 4th November, but reflected the budget announcement, and my expectation that the costs of the prospectus would have been included in the budget process. I received a response on 17th January 2022, which stated that some of the information was not available and other aspects of my request would not be answered because it had been judged that it would not be in the public interest to provide them (under the stipulations about formulation or development of government policy and free and frank provision of advice).

On 26th January 2022, I submitted a request for a review of these responses. I received a response on 17th February 2022, describing the result of the review (your reference 202100252928). As part of this response, the reviewer noted that Freedom of information requests apply only to recorded information which was held when the request is received, and that requests made for the same or similar inform on different dates my therefore result in different responses.

I am therefore writing again, in the hope that by now you do have more information, and that you can now provide this to me. I am hopeful that this will be the case, not least because it has been reported in the media that the work under way has been welcomed by a former minister and President of the SNP (https://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/scottish-independence-mike-russell-hails-teams-work-on-indyref2 blueprint-3545206).

1. Please could you let me know how much budget has now (as at late February 2022) been allocated to the preparation of a detailed prospectus for independence? Please could you let me know the breakdown of this budget allocation, including staff and non-staff costs. Please could you provide details of each of these categories, including estimated numbers of staff and grades within staff costs, and the specific estimates used for non-staff costs?

2. Please also provide me with the planned timescale for this work. Please note that this is a request for a plan, starting from now, or before now, and through to publication of the prospectus; it is not merely a request for a target date for the prospectus to be completed. By this stage (February 2022), I hope that at least there is a draft plan with milestones for drafting, reviewing and sign-off, for example; and that it can be made available to me.

3. Please could you also let me know how many Scottish Government staff are currently working on the prospectus, and the grades of each staff member? I ask this in anticipation of the staff allocation having moved on since the response dated 17th January 2022. If the answer remains the same as in the 17th January response, please let me know what the current plans are to add further team members to work on the prospectus in the future.

4. Finally, please provide me with copies of any Scottish Government documents which set out the draft or approved plan and budget for the scoping exercise; the draft or approved plan and budget for the prospectus itself. Please also provide minutes of the relevant meetings which approved the plans and budgets related to the prospectus; I expect that these minutes may be redacted in some way, due to the exemption which applies to the allowing of free and frank discussion, but I also expect that the minutes can be provided in redacted form and still show the record of the substance of the decisions.

Response

1. While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, we cannot provide you with figures on the basis you have requested. As recently set out in response to a FOI request (Preparations for a second independence referendum: FOI release - gov.scot (www.gov.scot), the work to prepare an independence prospectus will be taken forward by the Constitutional Futures Division, within the Scottish Government’s Constitution and Cabinet Directorate. However, the work to prepare an independence prospectus will draw on other officials across a range of portfolios who will contribute to varying extents as part of their wider responsibilities in supporting the Scottish Government. In line with usual practice, details of individual tasks carried out by civil servants, including the number of hours spent on them, are not routinely recorded because there is no business need to do this. We are therefore unable to provide you with an exact figure or estimates for staff costs of this work. This is a formal notice under section 17(1) of FOISA that the Scottish Government does not have the information you have requested.

2. & 4. An exemption under Section 29(1)(a) – Formulation or Development of Government Policy, applies to some of the information requested. The reasons why this exemption applies is explained in the Annex of this letter. In addition, the Scottish Government does not hold some of the information requested. This is a formal notice under section 17(1) of FOISA that the Scottish Government does not have some of the information you have requested.

3. At 23 February 2022, the staff in the Constitutional Futures Division co-ordinating work on an independence prospectus comprised of one Senior Civil Servant and thirteen other officials (12.9 Full Time Equivalent). The grades of the other officials are – 5 C2, 7 C1 and 1 B3.

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 - 202200283353 - Information Released - Annex

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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