Date lodged: 20 March 2018
To ask the Scottish Government for what reason the rules for the email inbox that is used to manage special advisers' input to Freedom of Information (FoI) requests reportedly states that "Once SpAds have provided final comments on the request keep only the e-mail containing the final comments and the final response letter. Delete everything else immediately", and what its position is on whether this contravenes FoI legislation.
Answered by: Joe FitzPatrick 10 April 2018
It is the responsibility of a lead policy official handling a FOI case to ensure that documents for the public record, including emails, are correctly stored electronically. It is Scottish Government policy that no private office, including the Special Advisers’ private office, is responsible for retaining e-mail trails.
The inbox is a tool used by the Special Advisers’ Private Office team to monitor the progress and status of FOI cases being considered by Special Advisers. The dedicated mailbox was created in January 2017 to assist with the management of FOI cases within the Special Advisers’ private office. The use of a dedicated mailbox replaced the previous system of FOI cases being sent to the Special Advisers’ office general administration mailbox and was one of the steps taken to help the Scottish Government meet its FOI performance targets.
The rules were written in January 2017 by the Special Advisers’ Private Secretary drawing on existing custom and practice of managing Private Office mailboxes and circulated to members of the Special Advisers’ private office team to ensure a consistent approach was taken by all members of the private office to the management of cases being considered by Special Advisers. The rules are administrative in nature and were not considered by ministers or special advisers. The creation of the dedicated FOI inbox was discussed with members of the FOI Unit.
The operation of the Special Advisers’ FOI inbox has no impact on a requester’s entitlement to information or on the Scottish Government’s commitment to being an open government. The operation of the inbox complies fully with FOI legislation as well as good mailbox management.