Scottish Government ordered to disclose documents related to Nicola Sturgeon’s resignation

The Scottish Government has lost a legal battle to keep secret the documents that led to the resignation of former First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in 2023. A judge at the Court of Session ruled that the government must release the documents to the public under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act.

The background of the case

Nicola Sturgeon stepped down as First Minister and leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) in March 2023, after she was arrested and questioned by police over allegations of financial misconduct by the party. She was accused of misusing more than £600,000 in donations for a future independence referendum campaign. She denied any wrongdoing and said she was cooperating with the investigation.

The Scottish Government refused to disclose the documents that led to her resignation, claiming that they were covered by legal privilege and confidentiality. However, a journalist from The National, a pro-independence newspaper, challenged the decision and filed an FOI request for the documents.

The ruling of the court

The Court of Session, Scotland’s highest civil court, heard the case in December 2023 and issued its judgment on Thursday. Lord Bracadale, the presiding judge, ruled that the Scottish Government had failed to justify its refusal to release the documents. He said that the public interest in transparency and accountability outweighed the government’s arguments of legal privilege and confidentiality.

Scottish Government ordered to disclose documents related to Nicola Sturgeon’s resignation

He said that the documents were “of considerable public interest and importance” and that they “shed light on the circumstances leading to the resignation of the First Minister and the implications for the governance of Scotland”. He also said that the disclosure of the documents would not harm the ongoing criminal investigation into Sturgeon and the SNP, as the government had claimed.

He ordered the government to disclose the documents within 28 days, subject to any further appeal by the government.

The reaction of the parties

The journalist who filed the FOI request, Martin Hannan, welcomed the ruling and said that it was a “victory for democracy and the right to know”. He said that he hoped that the documents would reveal the truth about what happened to the SNP’s referendum fund and why Sturgeon resigned.

The Scottish Government said that it was “disappointed” by the ruling and that it was “considering its options”. It said that it had “acted in good faith” and that it had “a duty to protect the confidentiality and legal privilege of its communications”.

The SNP said that it had “nothing to hide” and that it was “confident that the documents would show that Nicola Sturgeon acted with integrity and honesty”. It said that it was “focused on delivering for the people of Scotland and preparing for the next independence referendum”.

By Ishan Crawford

Prior to the position, Ishan was senior vice president, strategy & development for Cumbernauld-media Company since April 2013. He joined the Company in 2004 and has served in several corporate developments, business development and strategic planning roles for three chief executives. During that time, he helped transform the Company from a traditional U.S. media conglomerate into a global digital subscription service, unified by the journalism and brand of Cumbernauld-media.

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