THE Cabinet Office has refused to “confirm or deny” what information it holds regarding the role of the Minister for Independence or related spending by the Scottish Government.

A Freedom of Information (FOI) request response, seen exclusively by The National, asked the Cabinet Office for any correspondence sent or received by Simon Case regarding the position of Jamie Hepburn or spending on independence by officials.

There have been numerous occasions where the Cabinet Office’s secretive Clearing House for FOI’s has refused to release information relating to the Scottish Government, independence or the UK Government’s Union Unit replacement.

READ MORE: Humza Yousaf holds back tears during statement about family stuck in Gaza

An SNP source said the latest refusal showed the UK Government are “running scared” from publishing any documentation relating to independence.

It comes after Case told a Lords Committee in Westminster that the UK Government is investigating the spending by the Scottish Government on independence.

The top UK civil servant, who is currently on medical leave, told the committee that it would be “a bit worrying” if UK taxpayer money were to be spent on efforts for independence.

As well as Hepburn’s role as Minister for Independence, the Scottish Government is compiling a series of white papers on independence in the Building a New Scotland series.

The National:

But, Case (above) argued that “civil servants in Scotland and Wales can only spend their money on areas that are within their competence”, before confirming that the constitution is a reserved matter during the session.

And now, the Cabinet Office has refused to disclose whether or not it holds any correspondence relating to independence spending, despite noting that there is evidently public interest in it doing so.

The FOI response, after an internal review due to an initial refusal to disclose information, reads: “I maintain that the Cabinet Office neither confirms nor denies that it holds information you have requested.”

The letter added that the reply should be taken as “an indication that the information you requested is or is not held by the Cabinet Office”.

​READ MORE: Refugee scheme for Palestinians 'not right response', minister says

“I recognise that there is a public interest in being open and transparent in regards to matters that may relate to the Scottish Government and the matter of Independence,” the head of Freedom of Information at the Cabinet Office added “I therefore recognise that there is a public interest in confirming whether or not the Cabinet Office holds information in scope of your request.

“However, I consider that confirming whether or not we hold the requested information would in itself disclose information that would otherwise be exempt under Section 35 of the Act.

“If a confirmation or denial was given under the Act, this would reveal whether the Cabinet Secretary had or had not received correspondence on this particular topic.”

Confirming or denying what information Case held would allow a “picture to be built” on what issues were being considered, the response added, stating that an “inference could be drawn” about which matters were being prioritised.

The National: Humza Yousaf and Jamie Hepburn

“As such, further assumptions or inferences may be made about such matters,” it continued.

“I do not consider that such assumptions or inferences would be helpful and it follows that a confirmation or denial in this instance would not be in the public interest.”

The Cabinet Office concluded: “The public interest in neither confirming nor denying whether the Cabinet Office holds this information outweighs the public interest in the Cabinet Office confirming or denying whether it is held.”

An SNP source said: “It will appear to voters that the Tories are withholding information that confirms once and for all the Scottish Government has a democratic right to equip voters with the tools needed to make an informed choice on independence.

​READ MORE: Rishi Sunak rejects SNP claims Israel guilty of war crimes in Gaza

“Why else would the Westminster government be running scared of publishing these documents?”

The Scottish Government has been contacted for comment. 

We previously told how the Cabinet Office refused to say if it kept any briefings on Nicola Sturgeon during her tenure as Scottish first minister.

They claimed it would “prejudice” the relationship between the Scottish and UK Governments.

And, it also refused to disclose if any meetings of the Union Unit replacement had been held in October 2021. It also refused to give any details on what the Cabinet Union Strategy Committee (CUSC) discussed, or which ministers attended any meetings.