THE Cabinet Office has refused to “confirm or deny” if it holds ministerial briefings on Nicola Sturgeon as it would “prejudice” the UK-Scotland relationship, we can reveal.

A Freedom of Information (FOI) request asked for any documents prepared for ministers, including PM Boris Johnson, where the “main subject matter of the briefing is Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon”.

The request was initially refused in August last year, but an internal review revealed that the Cabinet Office won’t disclose if they hold the information as the FM would be “entitled to know” why she warranted being the subject of such a briefing.

They also refused to deny if they held any relevant documents in case it led to the conclusion the UK Government is not “attentive” to their relationship with the Scottish Government.

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The SNP dubbed the response “laughable” and said it was like an episode of The Thick of It, the BBC comedy which poked fun at the internal workings of the UK Government.

Tarley Smith, the current head of the Clearing House department which has been accused of blocking the release of information to journalists, said in the review that the Cabinet Office correctly “weighed up public interest” in its response.

It comes just days after it was revealed the Cabinet Office spent almost £40,000 fighting disclosure of any information relating to the secretive unit.

Setting out the findings of the internal review, Smith said: “If the Cabinet Office did hold such a briefing (and that is neither confirmed nor denied) then it is very likely to prejudice the relationship between the UK Government and the Scottish Government.

“Ms Sturgeon would be entitled to want to to know why she warranted being the main subject of a briefing to a UK Government Minister, what the purpose of such a briefing was and what its contents were.

“If the Cabinet Office denied that it held such a briefing then it could also lead to the incorrect conclusion that the UK Government was not attentive to the relationship between it and the Scottish Government.

“That would also be likely to serve to prejudice the relationship between the two.”

Smith went on to add that if the information, which in the same document they refuse to confirm or deny it’s existence, was released then “inferences would be drawn” about the relationship between the two governments.

She added: “This would not assist in the maintenance of a constructive relationship between the two. Such an outcome would not be in the public interest and I have therefore concluded that the Cabinet Office was correct in neither confirming nor denying whether the information requested is held.”

A government minister, Smith added, should be able to view such a briefing – adding that it’s existence was still neither confirmed nor denied – without fear that disclosure would “undermine the maintenance of harmonious relations within the UK”.

The National: Rona Mackay

SNP MSP Rona Mackay (above) said: “It is laughable that the Cabinet Office cannot reveal whether they have a briefing on the First Minister or not, but their justification for it would be more akin to an episode of The Thick of It as they tie themselves in knots.

“The UK Tory government has done enough itself to undermine relationships with Scotland and our parliament. Whether it be endless power grabs or dragging us out of the EU against our will, they have done enough themselves to damage the relationship.

“The people of Scotland will have a choice of a better future of an independent country instead of this shambolic UK Tory government.”

The Cabinet Office did not respond to request for comment.