IN response to a freedom of information (FOI) request, the Scottish Government revealed earlier this week the person who will be charged with leading the development of the “detailed prospectus” for independence.

That prospectus was first mentioned in the 2021-2022 programme for government (PfG), published in September of last year after the historic agreement between the SNP and Greens was reached.

The PfG stated: “The Scottish Government will work to ensure that a legitimate and constitutional referendum can be held within this Parliament, and if the Covid crisis is over, within the first half of this Parliament.

“It must be up to the people of Scotland – not a Westminster government they didn’t vote for – to decide how Scotland is governed. Before this referendum the people of Scotland will have the information they need to make an informed choice about their future and, therefore, the Scottish Government will start work on a detailed prospectus for an independent Scotland.”

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The answer to an FOI request, published by the Government on Wednesday, makes clear some key information about the work which has so far been done on this prospectus.

First, the release states that “final decisions” on the staffing, budget and timescale of work on the prospectus have not yet been taken.

However, it clarifies that work “on scoping what will be required” to come good on the commitment to publish the document - a successor to 2013’s “white paper” on independence - is currently “in progress”.

It further states: “Coordination of this work lies within the remit of David Rogers, constitution director, whose grade is senior civil servant – director, and whose responsibilities also include elections, devolution policy, relationships with the UK Government and a range of other matters.”

Information on David Rogers is thin on the ground. The Government website says he was a geologist before moving to work in the Scotland Office under John Major, starting in 1993.

It says his civil service career has since covered a range of topics, including housing, environmental policy and government finance, “but constitutional policy has been a major theme”. 

He worked on the legislation to establish the Scottish Parliament in 1999, and has worked on the current Scottish Government's constitutional programme (including the 2014 independence referendum and subsequent proposals for further devolution) since 2008.

He has been the director for constitution and cabinet since November 2012.

Further insights on Rogers can be gleaned from a substantial FOI release put out by the UK Government in 2009.

The release of these papers, which reveal tensions with Whitehall over the introduction of Scottish devolution, followed a near five-year battle with the then Labour government.

The documents span hundreds of pages and relate to the Sewel Convention, the theory that the Westminster government will avoid legislating in devolved areas without the consent of the Scottish Parliament.

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They make clear that Rogers was intimately involved in the matter, often being included in email chains alongside top politicians and having been sent a draft copy of the Sewel Convention around the same time as the Lord who gave it its name (above).

He also seems to have been an advocate for strengthening the powers of the Scottish Parliament, saying it should have a "veto" over Westminster attempts to legislate in devolved areas.

In an email from June 1999, Rogers said it would be in the Scottish government’s “interest in the long term to establish a precedent that Whitehall should not promote [bills that impact on devolved areas] without consent”.

In another from the same month, he writes that he thinks “that consent should be required whenever a Bill contains a provision which is about a devolved matter”.

He adds: “Ultimately the SP [Scottish Parliament] should have a veto and Whitehall should not be bludgeoning.”

In a third, reported by the BBC in 2009, Rogers wrote: “If we make it too difficult for [Whitehall] the buggers will just run roughshod over our convention.”

The full FOI release around the Sewel Convention’s negotiation can be found on the website What Do They Know.