Breakdown of legal advice provided to Ministers: FOI release

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

Information requested

The number of times [not the actual advice] that the Law Officers of the Scots Govt have published [i.e. made publicly available ] formal legal advice given to Ministers acting for the SCOTTISH GOVT on any particular matter that has arisen & publicly released since the inception of Devolved Govt in Scotland ?
Please disclose number of instances where requests for the LEGAL ADVICE to Ministers was requested but Refused in entirety?"


To provide some background, out with FOI(S)A, your request has asked for the information surrounding Law Officers advice 'since Devolution'. Devolution in Scotland occurred in 1999 and the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act came into being in 2003.

The answer to your first question is once.

We have interpreted the second part of your request to mean the number of times a response to a Freedom of Information request or response provided under the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations of 2004 in relation to legal advice was issued and refused under the exemptions of section 36 (1) (Confidentiality) and section 29(1) (c) (Formulation of Scottish Administration policy) and specifically the provision of advice by any of the Law Officers or any request for the provision of such advice.I have also considered under The Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations whilst obtaining any figures.

To provide some additional context, in 2019 there was a change in our reporting systems whereby the previous system was completely decommissioned and is no longer available to provide this specific data. In order to obtain an insight there would a large undertaking to source, identify and verify all previously issued responses which may or may not have been specific to legal advice. While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance the costs of locating, retrieving and providing the information requested for the second part of your request would exceed the upper cost limit of £600.

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 reducing the scope of your request in order that the costs can be brought below £600. This could be done by reducing the time frame in which you are interested in the information you seek; providing a specific topic on which the legal advice has been refused or if a particular business area involved is of interest in relation to the legal advice refusal. You may also find it helpful to look at the Scottish Information Commissioner's 'Tips for requesting information under FOI and the EIRs' on his website at:

However, since 01.11.2018 the following data is available in relation to the topic of LEGAL ADVICE:

Advice by law officials has been withheld under exemption 29(1)(c) 11 times
Information has been withheld under exemption 36(1) (Confidentiality – which can also be applied to advice by law officials) 108 times
Information contained in internal communications (exception (10(4)(e)) which may or may not include legal advice) has been withheld 66 times
Information has been withheld due to the confidentiality of proceedings (exception 10(5)(d)) 11 times

To further assist in your request to obtain statistical data, out with FOI(S)A, we are required to provide our regulator, Scottish Information Commissioner (OSIC) statistical data on a quarterly basis regarding the application of exemptions and exceptions. This information can be found on the Commissioner's website: FOI and EIRs statistics | Scottish Information Commissioner (

About FOI

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


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

The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
Regent Road

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