DETAILS from a previously secret register of Scottish ministerial interests are published by the Herald today.

They reveal how the Culture Secretary has been forced to exclude himself from key funding decisions for arts bodies because of constituency conflicts of interests.

Angus Robertson has also recused himself from decisions on alcohol and a proposed advertising ban as his wife’s PR company promotes whisky.

SNP leadership hopeful Kate Forbes decided not to record her church membership, despite other ministers recording theirs.

Green minister Patrick Harvie, who has been arrested many times at anti-Trident protests at Faslane, listed a conviction for breach of the peace.

Carole Ewart, director of the Campaign for Freedom of Information in Scotland, said: “There’s no point in gathering this kind of information then keeping it secret.

"I applaud the efforts of the Herald to bring this to the public’s attention and making sure that it is now regularly published to show that the rules are being followed.”

The downfall of UK Tory chairman Nadhim Zahawi in January for failing to declare his HMRC investigation in the Westminster ministerial register of interests drew attention to the little-known document.

More wide-ranging than the MPs’ register of interests, it has been published by the UK Government in relation to its ministers since 2011.

READ MORE: Conflicted SNP cabinet minister unable to take key funding decisions

But although an equivalent register is compiled by the Scottish Government’s top official, it is not public.

Using freedom of information, the Herald obtained the register for current ministers and a list of recusals to avoid potential conflicts of interests.

Declarations include:

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon: “A share of a house in Portugal is owned by my husband but is not leased or rented out and so I would not consider it relevant to Ministerial interests.”

Scotish Green minister Patrick Harvie: “I have previously taken part in a number of nonviolence direct action protests, and have once been convicted of breach of the peace in relation to such a protest.”

The Scottish Government's proposed ban on alcohol advertising forced Mr Robertson to recused himself from portfolio decisions involving alcohol policy last month.


Spey Media Ltd, set up by his wife in 2016, was recently named best PR agency at the Icons of Whisky Scotland Awards, which it said proved that “when it comes to uisge-beatha we know what we’re talking about.”

Its clients include the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival, several distilleries, and a whisky auctioneer. 

Mr Robertson declared the link to Spey Media in his ministerial register of interests in 2021, but added: "Am not aware of any clients having any interests that directly relate to portfolio responsibilities.”

However in November the Scottish Government began consulting on banning alcohol advertising from billboards, sports and events sponsorship on health grounds.

Mr Robertson, whose portfolio includes a range of events sponsored by drinks firms which would be affected by a ban, is no longer copied into papers on the issue. 

A Government register of actions taken to avoid conflicts says he "recused himself from Ministerial decision making in relation to his portfolio’s policy interests in the alcohol industry (in light of the Scottish Government’s consultation on alcohol advertising and promotion) given his wife’s public relations company represents alcohol brands". 

Junior culture minister Neil Gray now deals with the issue instead.


The minister in charge of dualling the A9 is unable to make decisions about one stretch of it because of a potential conflict of interest caused by a family member.

Jenny Gilruth makes decisions about the other nine single-carriageway sections of the Perth to Inverness road, but not the Pass of Birnam to Tay Crossing near Dunkeld.

READ MORE: Forbes did not record her church or family firms in official register

Her boss Net Zero Secretary Michael Matheson answers parliamentary questions and receives papers on that stretch instead.

Ms Gilruth recused herself “because a family member chairs a local community group which has been involved in some campaigning on the A9 in the past”.

The transport minister is “still responsible for decisions relating to other sections of the A9 project", provided they have no relationship to the Dunkeld section.

As a junior culture minister, Ms Gilruth also had to recuse herself from decisions on the music charity Sistema as her partner, former Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale, is on the board.