- A breakdown of how that £20 million was calculated - including all documents which shows how the figure was calculated and all details of how the money would be predicted to be spent. In other words, all documents which show the rationale of the final figure.
- All correspondence between relevant Scottish Government workers (presumably email correspondence or official meetings between Scottish Government workers responsible for the announcement) concerning the finalised figure of £20 million and how it would be announced to the public. The scope of this would be within the day that the figure was calculated and agreed on.
- A list of every Scottish Government worker and Minister responsible for agreeing to that figure of £20 million and the date of that meeting and agreement.
I have concluded that the original decision should be confirmed and hope that the following explanation on a number of the points that you raised is helpful.
In relation to your first question, on the calculation of the £20 million figure, I note that you were referred by Ms Whyte in her reply of 1 July to the Financial Memorandum prepared for the passage of the Referendums (Scotland) Bill, considered by the Scottish Parliament in 2020. I can confirm that this Memorandum identifies the likely costs involved in the planned referendum. As noted at paragraph 12 of the Memorandum, the projected costs of such a referendum “will have to be estimated in more detail at the time when the triggered referendum is taken forward. An estimate of the costs of a specific referendum event could be made based on comparisons with the cost of delivering previous elections and referendums across the UK and advice obtained from relevant stakeholders…costs may vary according to the specific circumstances of the referendum to be held...”. A full and updated breakdown of expected costs will therefore be published in a new Financial Memorandum accompanying any Bill that seeks to require a new referendum to be held.
Because work on that new breakdown remains in progress, I can confirm that detailed information from that assessment cannot currently be provided because of the exemption cited under section 29(1)(a) of FOISA in relation to the formulation and development of Scottish Government policy. I consider that Ms Whyte correctly applied the public interest test in considering this exemption, balancing the factors in favour of the release of the information against those in favour of withholding the information. I would in particular highlight her comment that “that Ministers and officials need to be able to consider all available options and to debate those rigorously, to fully understand their possible implications. Their candour in doing so will be affected by their assessment of whether the discussions on will be disclosed in the near future, when it may undermine or constrain the Government’s view on that policy while it is still under discussion and development”. I appreciate that you argue that it is “always in the public interest to disclose decisions relating to the public, particularly when it concerns a potential referendum that would certainly affect everyone in the country” and your stressing of the need for accountability. However, the £20 million figure is a provisional allocation for the referendum, a point that was made clear when it was published. As I have highlighted above, the detailed cost of a new referendum will be set out in a Financial Memorandum at the time that a Bill for a new referendum is introduced. The drafting of that document, and the associated information-gathering on cost, is still underway.
As a result, I do not accept that it would be in the public interest for unfinished work-in-progress drafts of such material to be contemporaneously published as relevant data is compiled. In fact, it could obscure public debate on the costs of a referendum by airing financial documents before they are complete.
have however noted that the following additional information on preparations for a second independence referendum has been published by the Scottish Government and thought that it might be helpful to draw this to your attention: Preparations for a second independence referendum: FOI release - gov.scot (www.gov.scot)
Your second question sought: “All correspondence between relevant Scottish Government workers (presumably email correspondence or official meetings between Scottish Government workers responsible for the announcement) concerning the finalised figure of £20 million and how it would be announced to the public. The scope of this would be within the day that the figure was calculated and agreed on.”
I think it would be helpful to stress here that the final sentence of your question was interpreted as restricting the scope of the question to correspondence on the day “the figure was agreed on” (28 May 2022). While this is obviously a restrictive interpretation, it seems to me to be a fair reading of the final sentence of your question and one that was explained by Ms Whyte in her reply of 1 July. Indeed, it seems difficult to attribute a different meaning to this sentence. I have queried with the officials working in this area whether there were communications described by your request on 28 May and they have clarified there was no correspondence of this kind on that day. I can therefore confirm that the information sought in your second question is not held in terms of section 17 of FOISA.
On your third question (“A list of every Scottish Government worker and Minister responsible for agreeing to that figure of £20 million and the date of that meeting and agreement”), I thought that it might be helpful to direct you to information on the membership of the Scottish Cabinet at this link. As set out in Ms Whyte’s reply of 1 July, the decision was approved by the Cabinet in correspondence issued on 28 May 2022.
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.
Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Phone: 0300 244 4000
The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
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