FOI reference: FOI/17/02104
Date received: 14 September 2017
Date responded: 12th October 2017
You asked "what preparation Scottish Government civil servants carried out for the potential of a Scottish Labour or Scottish Conservative-led Government; to ask if Leslie Evans was involved with these preparations and if so what work she carried out; to ask if any work was carried out delivering on the Scottish Labour or Scottish Conservative Manifestos; to ask if Scottish Government civil servants had any contact with Scottish Labour or the Scottish Conservatives on their programme before the election; to ask for any internal documents produced by Scottish Government civil servants on the Scottish Labour or Scottish Conservative Manifestos; and to ask for internal correspondence on the Scottish Labour or Scottish Conservative parties' government programme or manifestos ahead of the election?".
The response is in two parts. The first part addresses the following part of the request:
"what preparation Scottish Government civil servants carried out for the potential of a Scottish Labour or Scottish Conservative-led Government; to ask if Leslie Evans was involved with these preparations and if so what work she carried out; to ask if any work was carried out delivering on the Scottish Labour or Scottish Conservative Manifestos; to ask if Scottish Government civil servants had any contact with Scottish Labour or the Scottish Conservatives on their programme before the election"
Civil service support for government formation
In keeping with established practice in Scotland and with the agreement of the First Minister, the civil service put in place arrangements for the 2016 Scottish Parliament election to ensure that it was ready to offer assistance to political parties represented in the Scottish Parliament, and to independent members, to support the process of forming a government.
This work was carried out by the civil service independently of Ministers and Special Advisers. None of the outputs were shared with Ministers or Special Advisers during the election period.
The Permanent Secretary, Leslie Evans, wrote to all Party Leaders on 5 May 2016 to inform them that the civil service would be ready to support each party in any government-formation discussion after the election. This support was designed to be available equally to all parties and any independent members who secured election and were engaged in government-formation discussions.
This civil service support was designed to ensure that government-formation discussions following the election could be informed by advice on policy, delivery, legislative, constitutional and financial matters.
The civil service was ready to assemble and summarise available information in a form that would be most helpful to discussions and to offer, on request, an assessment of the key issues arising from particular manifesto commitments and common ground across manifestos. It was also ready to provide note-taking and other drafting support, including for the production of any agreement or programme for government document.
Also in line with established practice, and again with the authorisation of the First Minister, pre-election access to the civil service was offered to opposition parties, from 1 December 2015 until 5 May 2016.
These access arrangements were primarily an opportunity for opposition parties to inform the civil service of their plans for government. It also provided them with a chance to seek information about the way the Scottish Government was organised and to obtain factual information to assist them with the formulation of their policies.
The Permanent Secretary wrote to the leaders of the Scottish Conservative Party, the Scottish Labour Party, the Scottish Liberal Democrats and the Scottish Green Party on 25 November 2015 offering to meet them to discuss how they wished to take advantage of this access. As part of these arrangements, the Permanent Secretary, supported by senior officials, met with the Leader of the Scottish Conservative Party and the Leader of the Scottish Labour Party.
Lead senior civil servants (at Director level) were identified to act as contact points for the parties that wished to use the pre-election access arrangements to request factual information from the civil service.
A set of ground rules, consistent with the Civil Service Code and Cabinet Office guidance SG Directory of civil service guidance underpinned this engagement. Only factual information could be provided. The civil service could respond to requests concerning specific policy proposals but could not offer views on general policy areas or advice on the development of policies, nor suggest alternatives. The civil service could direct opposition parties to sources of published information, but could not cost policies or verify estimates. The civil service could offer information about possible legislative requirements, but could not offer legal advice nor verify legal advice provided by a third party. Engagement under the pre-election access arrangements was conducted in confidence and the civil service did not disclose the content of discussions to Ministers or Special Advisers, or to other opposition parties.
Information concerning pre-election discussions was stored in restricted files and distributed internally strictly in accordance with the 'need to know' principle. The information was not retained once it was no longer needed. The senior civil servants appointed as lead contacts for each Party did not share the content of their contact with each other and did not have access to material being handled by the other lead contacts.
Guidance for civil servants
In terms of the handling of normal business up to and during the election period (which ran from the dissolution of Parliament to Polling Day), guidance for those working in the Scottish Government, its agencies and national devolved public bodies was published on 28 January 2016 . Scottish Parliament Election: Guidance
This guidance reminded civil servants that they should remain politically impartial, ensure that public resources were not used for party political purposes and avoid anything that could distract attention from or compete with the election campaign. It also made clear that decisions on matters of policy on which the next administration might wish to take a different view from the current administration were expected to be postponed until after the election, provided that such postponement would not be detrimental to Scotland's interest or wasteful of public resources.
Again in keeping with established practice, a process of monitoring and analysis of policy commitments (in manifestos and other statements) by the five main parties in Scotland was undertaken during the election campaign in readiness for the following:
- Assisting in supporting any government formation discussions
- Supporting an incoming government to prioritise its commitments
- Providing a basis for portfolio-level advice to new portfolio Ministers
- Identifying if any shift in resources – staffing and funding – would be needed to deliver the incoming government's commitments
- Building organisational understanding of the priorities of future opposition parties and likely areas of consensus and disagreement in the next Parliament.
No products from this exercise were shared during the election period with incumbent Ministers or Special Advisers. Guidance was also provided to senior officials making clear that it would not be appropriate to share with incoming Ministers materials produced for the purposes of assisting the civil service in supporting any government-formation discussions. However, the guidance noted that, following the formation of a government, it would be appropriate to draw on that material to address questions that incoming Ministers might have about proposals advanced by other parties. In that context it would be appropriate to share an assessment of alignment between the manifesto commitments of different parties with incoming Ministers.
Induction material for Ministers
Lastly, briefing was developed by the civil service for the purposes of induction material for incoming Ministers. This was, again, in line with established practice and consistent with the Civil Service Code and Cabinet Office guidance.
The issues covered were, in the main, unrelated to the manifestos or programmes of individual parties and rather comprised a factual description of a directorate and its divisions and issues and decisions that an incoming Minister would need to consider in the period following the election. However, officials were asked to consider the content of manifestos in producing these briefings, particularly focussing on those parties most likely to lead any coalition.
The second part of this response addresses the following part of the request:
"to ask for any internal documents produced by Scottish Government civil servants on the Scottish Labour or Scottish Conservative Manifestos; and to ask for internal correspondence on the Scottish Labour or Scottish Conservative parties' government programme or manifestos ahead of the election?"
I enclose, at Annexes B to H, a copy of some of the information you requested. This comprises material relating to the overall content of the manifestos, as well as a number of working documents used by individual directorates to assist them in their understanding of manifestos. It comprises material only relating to the Scottish Labour and Scottish Conservative manifestos.
|Pre-election monitoring for Ruth Davidson meeting 5.01.16||Annex B||48.9KB|
|Pre-election monitoring for Kezia Dugdale meeting 5.04.16||Annex C||1.2MB|
|Pre-election monitoring document||Annex D||4MB|
|List of commitments Labour and Conservative||Annex E||11MB|
|Nursing document 13.04.17||Annex F||525KB|
|Health Improvement document||Annex G||721.2KB|
|Higher Education & Science (document 1)||Annex H||445.8KB|
|Medicines document||Annex I||157.8KB|
|Higher Education & Science (document 2)||Annex J||732.1KB|
Due to the file size of Annex D and Annex E, copies can be provided on request by emailing email@example.com, quoting the FOI reference number FOI/17/02104
While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance we are unable to provide some of the information you have requested because an exemption under section 30(c) of FOISA (prejudice to the effective conduct of public affairs) applies to that information. The reasons why this exemption applies are explained below.
Reasons for not providing information
An exemption applies, subject to the public interest test
An exemption under section 30(c) of FOISA (prejudice to effective conduct of public affairs) applies to some of the information requested. This exemption applies because disclosure would, or would be likely to, inhibit substantially the civil service's ability to prepare effectively for the process of government formation following an election and to prepare for the policy programme of an incoming government.
To be of value, the analysis produced must be detailed and frank and to allow this, it must be prepared free of any extraneous concerns that would interfere with the preparation of such thorough analysis. These would necessarily include the concern that the analysis would be exposed to a public audience. Such disclosure would undermine the provision of detailed and frank analysis and therefore constitute substantial prejudice to the effective conduct of public affairs for the purposes of this exemption.
The exemption under section 30(c) is subject to the 'public interest test'. Taking account of all the circumstances of this case, we have considered if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption. We recognise that there is a public interest in disclosing information as part of open, transparent and accountable government, and to inform public debate. However, there is a greater public interest in allowing the civil service to prepare for government-formation discussions and for an incoming administration of any political complexion in a private non-prejudicial space. This is essential to ensure the unbroken smooth running of government after an election, especially when there is a change of administration.
The confidential nature of this material is reflected in the approach to sharing documents within the civil service and with Ministers. Materials were shared only on a restricted basis within the civil service, with the exception of publicly available material and an assessment of alignment between commitments in different manifestos. No materials were shared with incumbent Ministers or Special Advisers and clear guidance was provided to the civil service that only limited information could be shared with incoming Ministers once a government had been formed.
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 Andrew's House