Holyrood officials give bizarre excuse for not revealing SNP letters to rich and famous
THE SNP Government have refused to release letters and files because it would be too expensive to provide them.
The Daily Record used Freedom of Information laws to request details of correspondence between First Minister Nicola Sturgeon , her predecessor Alex Salmond and several high-profile people.
But the Edinburgh Government have refused to release the information, claiming it would be too expensive for them to locate the letters in their files.
They claim it is impossible to easily trace past communications with any individual, because their filing system disregards names and collates only subject matters.
Yet most email systems allow users to simply type a name into a search box to view a history of their communications with that person.
When we made a similar request for access to Salmond’s emails two years ago , his advisers fought for six months not to hand them over.
It took the intervention of the Scottish Information Commissioner to finally order their release, which left Salmond red-faced.
They showed the then first minister had been ignored by leading sports stars after sending out a string of gushing letters.
Salmond wrote to Andy Murray eight times over a two-year period – once congratulating him for his “near flawless tennis” – but failed to receive a single response.
He also wrote fawning letters to former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson and Olympic champion Sir Chris Hoy – but never heard back from them either.
This time around we asked for all correspondence between Salmond, Sturgeon and well-known figures including Murdoch, Souter and Sir Sean Connery, as well as senior figures in the BBC.
Anti-trade union print baron Murdoch last year hailed the former first minister as “my friend”.
He has also tweeted that Salmond was “clearly [the] most brilliant politician in [the] UK”.
The friendship goes both ways, with Salmond referring to Murdoch as “Sir Rupert” in a letter in 2008, even though the billionaire media tycoon has not being knighted.
Stagecoach group boss Souter is a long-standing donor to the SNP .
But in a letter of refusal Rebecca Robb, private secretary to Deputy First Minister John Swinney, said: “I can confirm the cost of complying would exceed the upper cost limit set at £600.
“This is because as explained in our original response, we do not file our information under the names of individuals; instead information is filed by subject.
“Therefore to find correspondence with particular individuals we would need to trawl through files on almost every subject for which the Scottish Government is responsible.”
We pointed out that our 2013 FOI request for Salmond’s letters was finally complied with after the intervention of the information commissioner, but Robb rebuffed this, claiming the Scottish Government were just trying to be “helpful” on that occasion.
She wrote: “This was done exceptionally in order to be helpful following errors in the handling of your initial request and review request.
“That request related to 12 individuals whilst your current request relates to 18 which is 50 per cent longer.”
When the request was refused we asked for a cost breakdown so that we could reduce the number of letters that had to be collated if necessary.
But the breakdown was refused on the grounds that the law didn’t require that it was handed over.
The Record has asked the Scottish Information Commissioner to investigate the refusal to release the information and a preliminary probe is being carried out.