THE Scotland Office has refused to reveal how much it has spent cleaning graffiti and paint from the front of its new Edinburgh HQ.

The National asked the UK Government through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to disclose documents relating to graffiti and paint removal at Queen Elizabeth House in Edinburgh, but the request was denied.

Just Stop Oil activists threw red paint over the plush glass-fronted flagship office on June 2 this year, in protest at the UK Government’s final approval for the Jackdaw oil field.

Jennifer Kowalski, 26, pleaded guilty to a breach of the peace at Edinburgh Sheriff Court over the incident where activists scrawled “blood on your hands” into the luminous red paint.

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The fiscal depute told the court that the UK Government claimed damages amounted to £600,000.

However, when the Sheriff asked the prosecutor if the figure was correct, she said an update had been requested from the government but had not come to fruition.

HMRC would later deny the six-figure sum and claim the repair costs were closer to £6600.

Kowalski told the court she believed the inflated figure was overstated to act as a “scare tactic” against environmental campaigners.

The National: Just Stop Oil protesters covered the flagship building in red paint earlier in the summerJust Stop Oil protesters covered the flagship building in red paint earlier in the summer (Image: PA)

However, the Scotland Office is remaining tight-lipped on the actual costs surrounding the incident, or any others as the hub is frequently targetted by protesters, and refused to hand over any documentation including memos or invoices.

The National asked for details of any incidents from March 2020 involving protesters, graffiti, and paint removal.

Scotland Secretary Alister Jacks’ department did confirm that they hold the information, but refused to disclose any of it on numerous grounds.

First, they said that it would impact government ministerial decision-making as, “in the opinion of a qualified person, in this case a minister of the Crown, its disclosure would, or would be likely to, inhibit the free and frank provision of advice or the free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation”.

Although the UK Government said there was a “definite public interest” in understanding the impacts of protestors and graffiti on a government building, they still refused to provide the information requested.

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The FOI response said: “It is strongly in the public interest that ministers are able to receive free and frank advice from officials and outside experts, and are able to engage in the receive free and frank exchange of views with stakeholders.

“This advice and exchange of views must be detailed, frank, and completely candid if it is to be of value.

“For this to occur, the advisers and stakeholders must be free of any inhibitions that might interfere with their ability to give full, frank and, sometimes, unwelcome advice or opinions.”

The National: The Scotland Office has refused to disclose how much in damage has been caused by paint and grafittiThe Scotland Office has refused to disclose how much in damage has been caused by paint and grafitti (Image: PA)

It added: “Taking into account all the circumstances of this case, I have concluded that the balance of the public interest favours withholding the information that falls within the scope of this exemption.”

The government also said The National’s request did not pass the public interest test as the “information related to the safety of civil servants and the security measures designed to protect them and the wider public to be withheld from disclosure.”

Finally, the Scotland Office said that they could not disclose the names of officials outside of the civil service due to an exemption within FOI law.