Conservatives demand publication of SNP’s ‘secret’ briefings on Indyref2

The Tories are appealing a decision by Scotland’s Information Commissioner in a bid to force the publication of more than a dozen “secret” government briefings on a possible second independence referendum.

It comes after a freedom of information request confirmed 13 such documents existed – but exemptions to the law prevented the release of them.

The Conservatives have now submitted an appeal to Information Commissioner Daren Fitzhenry to determine if the exemptions were correctly applied.

The original request asked for details of “any briefings by civil servants or documents provided to ministers” on a second independence referendum in 2017 or 2018.

The Information Commissioner’s office said 13 documents were identified as being within scope of the request, adding “these were provided from civil servants to ministers as part of their normal duties supporting ministers”.

However it said: “We are unable to provide these items because of the exemptions.”

The response continued: “I acknowledge there is a public interest in the topic of a second independence referendum and in disclosing information as part of open, transparent and accountable government, and to inform public debate.

“However, I am satisfied that after taking account of all of the circumstances of the case, there is a greater public interest in ensuring high quality policy and decision-making by government, and this is achieved through allowing ministers and officials the private space they need to consider all available options and to debate those rigorously and to fully understand their possible implications before a final position can be reached.”

The Tories branded the production of the briefing papers as “irresponsible government”, arguing Scotland’s position as part of the UK had been settled in the 2014 independence referendum.

Tory chief whip Maurice Golden, with leader Ruth Davidson in Holyrood (Jane Barlow/PA)

Chief whip Maurice Golden said: “These secret briefings prove that the prospect of a second independence referendum is never off the SNP’s table.

“The question was settled in 2014. Yet, in the years afterwards, civil servants were still churning out briefings for ministers so they could continue banging the drum for separation in front of the cameras.

“That is irresponsible government.”

Mr Golden added: “The Nationalists should have been putting all their efforts into improving schools, hospitals, infrastructure and the economy.

“The SNP government clearly deemed it necessary for taxpayer-funded civil servants to produce these highly-political briefings.

“As such, they should now be published, as part of the SNP’s so-called commitment to open and transparent government.”

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