Publication - FOI/EIR release

Pivotal Enterprise Resilience Fund: FOI release

Published: 19 Aug 2020

Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002

Published:
19 Aug 2020
Pivotal Enterprise Resilience Fund: FOI release
FOI reference: FOI/202000044131
Date received: 1 Jun 2020
Date responded: 27 Jul 2020
Information requested

a) Why was the Pivotal Economic Resilience Fund (PERF) paused and then reopened and then refunded?
b) What advice was provided to Fiona Hyslop with regard to pausing the PERF?
c) Any correspondence between the Scottish Government and external agencies about the pausing and resumption of the PERF?

Response

Question a)
Due to the exceptionally high volume of applications, the Pivotal Enterprise Resilience Fund paused for live applications from 5pm on 5 May to 14 May to allow our delivery partners, the Enterprise Agencies, to review initial completed applications. Each application was bespoke to each business and partners needed time to analyse each application. Businesses were kept informed throughout this period. The fund reopened by mid-morning on 14 May to allow those businesses who missed the opportunity the first time around to submit their applications. The Pivotal Enterprise Resilience Fund then closed at 5pm on 18 May 2020.

On 8 May, the fund was topped up with an additional £45m of funding from Scottish Government and a further £30m on 20 May, taking the total fund value to £120m. This additional money helped to meet the exceptional level of demand for this support scheme.

Question b)
While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance we are unable to provide some of the information you have requested because an exemption under section 30(b)(i) (free and frank provision of advice) of FOISA applies to that information.

This exemption applies because disclosure would, or would be likely to, inhibit substantially the free and frank provision of advice. This exemption recognises the need for officials to have a private space within which to provide free and frank advice to Ministers before the Scottish Government reaches a settled public view. Disclosing the content of free and frank advice on the operation of the Pivotal Enterprise Resilience Fund will substantially inhibit the provision of such advice in the future, particularly because these discussions relate to a sensitive or controversial issue such as the decision on how to manage the distribution of limited funding to a large number of businesses in hardship.

This exemption is subject to the 'public interest test'. Therefore, taking account of all the circumstances of this case, we have considered if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exemption. We recognise that there is a public interest in disclosing information as part of open, transparent and accountable government, to inform public debate, and to enable scrutiny of the use of public funds. However, there is a greater public interest in allowing a private space within which officials can provide full and frank advice to Ministers, as part of the process of exploring and refining the Government’s position on the operation of the PERF, until the Government as a whole can adopt a decision that is sound and likely to be effective. This private thinking space is essential to enable all options to be properly considered, based on the best available advice, so that good decisions can be taken. Premature disclosure is likely to undermine the full and frank discussion of issues between Ministers and officials, which in turn will undermine the quality of the decision making process, which would not be in the public interest.

Question c)
While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance we are unable to provide some of the information you have requested because exemptions under sections 30(b)(ii) (free and frank exchange of views) and 38(1)(b) (personal information) of FOISA apply to that information. The reasons why these exemptions apply are explained below. 

An exemption under section 30(b)(ii) of FOISA (free and frank exchange of views) applies to some of the information requested. This exemption applies because disclosure would, or would be likely to, inhibit substantially the free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation. This exemption recognises the need for officials to have a private space within which to discuss and explore options before the Scottish Government reaches a settled public view. Disclosing the content of free and frank discussions on the operation of the PERF will substantially inhibit such discussions in the future, particularly because these discussions relate to a sensitive or controversial issue such as the decision on how to manage the distribution of limited funding to a large number of businesses in hardship.

This exemption is subject to the ‘public interest test’. Therefore, taking account of all the circumstances of this case, we have considered if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exemption. We recognise that there is a public interest in disclosing information as part of open, transparent and accountable government, to inform public debate, and to enable the scrutiny of the use of public funds. However, there is a greater public interest in allowing officials a private space within which to explore and refine the Government’s position on the operation of the PERF, until the Government as a whole can adopt a decision that is sound and likely to be effective. This private thinking space is essential to enable all options to be properly considered, so that good decisions can be taken. Premature disclosure is likely to undermine the full and frank discussion of issues between officials, which in turn will undermine the quality of the decision-making process, which would not be in the public interest.
 
An exemption under section 38(1)(b) of FOISA (personal information) applies to some of the information requested because it is personal data of a third party, i.e. the names and contact details of officials in grades below the Senior Civil Service, and disclosing it would contravene the data protection principles in Article 5(1) of the General Data Protection Regulation and in section 34(1) of the Data Protection Act 2018. This exemption is not subject to the ‘public interest test’, so we are not required to consider if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption.

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Contact

Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Email: ceu@gov.scot
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
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