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by Ruaraidh Gilmour
11 July 2023
Scottish Government ordered to publish analysis on post-independence EU entry

It was found that it would be in the public’s interest to make “more informed decisions” in the event of a second Scottish independence referendum | Alamy

Scottish Government ordered to publish analysis on post-independence EU entry

Scottish ministers have been found to have broken transparency rules after they failed to publish analysis on how long it would take an independent Scotland to join the EU.  

The Scottish Government has been ordered by the Scottish Information Commissioner to publish documents they did not release from a Freedom of Information (FOI) request, which they argued was out with the scope of the request.  

It was found that it would be in the public’s interest to make “more informed decisions” in the event of a second Scottish independence referendum.    

One of the documents initially deemed out of the scope of the request was the timescale of other nations joining the EU. Commissioner Daren Fitzhenry found that there would be “no apparent reason” for this type of information to be withheld, “unless the experience of those other nations was considered relevant to how long it might take Scotland to join the EU”.

It was accepted by Fitzhenry while some parts should be released some analysis should remain secret.  

In his ruling, the commissioner said: “The public interest in voters knowing the details of analysis conducted to determine the likely timescales involved in an independent Scotland re-joining the EU is significant and cannot be underestimated.”  

Fitzhenry did not accept that disclosure would “prevent officials from providing free and frank views in the future”.

Fitzhenry said: “Given the prominence and importance of the issue of an independent Scotland being able to re-join the EU, the Commissioner considers that, if the ministers held any advice on how long that process would be likely to take, then its disclosure would be very much in the public interest.

“The Commissioner takes the view that the length of time it would take to re-join the EU might well be a key factor for individuals in deciding how to cast their vote in any potential second referendum on Scottish independence.”

The Scottish Government has until 17 August to release the previously withheld information. Ministers can appeal to the Court of Session on a point of law.  

Pamela Nash, chief executive of Scotland in Union, said: “One of the SNP’s main arguments for separation is the claim that Scotland would quickly and easily get back into the EU.

“But this has never been backed up by any evidence, and the idea is consistently rejected by senior European officials.

“It had always seemed more likely that this would be a lengthy and expensive process, with absolutely no guarantee of success.

“This is why it’s so crucial that the Scottish Government publishes its evidence in full and without delay.

“Keeping key work like this secret only leads people to suspect the nationalists are yet again trying to pull the wool over the eyes of voters.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Scottish ministers note this decision from the Scottish Information Commissioner and will now consider their response."

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