Publication - FOI/EIR release

Representation of the People Act 1918: centenary funding: FOI review

Published: 24 May 2018

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

Published:
24 May 2018
Representation of the People Act 1918: centenary funding: FOI review

FOI reference: FOI/18/01150
Date received: 16 April 2018
Date responded: 22 May 2018

Information requested

  • 'When the idea of the fund announced by the First Minister was first floated within government and copies of a paper trail [including emails, memos, minutes, and position papers] setting out the key points of development from the original idea to the day the announcement was made;

  • If not in the above, copies notes, emails, minutes which provide the rationale for not opening the fund for applications on the same day that it was announced or within the same week;

  • What work has been done to develop the fund [criteria to be used, outcomes to be achieved, limits on grants to be provided etc.] since the announcement, and copies of a paper trail on the main elements of that work [including emails, memos, minutes and position papers] from that time to the current date;

  • What is the current target date for opening the fund to applications

  • Who will be involved in oversight of the distribution of the fund and analysis of actual impact against project claims?'

Response

Further to my email of 17 April 2018 I have now completed my review of our failure to respond to your request of 13 March 2018 under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA), for information relating to the Scottish Government's announcement on 6 February 2018 of £500,000 of funding to mark 100 years since the passing of the Representation of the People Act 1918 which gave some women the right to vote.

I apologise for the delay in responding to your original request. This was a result of my oversight of the email from the Central Enquiry Unit containing your original request.

In accordance with section 21(4) of FOISA, I have also reached a decision on your request.

Before responding to your request, it might be helpful if I clarified the 6th February announcement of £500,000 of funding to celebrate the centenary of women's suffrage. This announcement was not intended to imply that all £500,000 of funding would be made available through an open application process or grant scheme.

However, in reviewing the news release I appreciate that this could have been clearer and I apologise for any misunderstanding. On 15 April 2018, a subsequent Scottish Government news release set out further information on how the £500,000 of funding would be allocated. The funding allocations are:

Centenary Small Grant Scheme £170,000
Year of Young People 2018 Event £30,000
Glasgow Women's Library £90,000
Artichoke PROCESSIONS Project £50,000
Deeds Not Words Play £3,500
Suffrage Flag Relay £6,500

This will leave approximately £150,000 to support additional activity to improve women's political representation and participation.

You asked "what is the current target date for opening the fund to applications". The Scottish Government Centenary Small Grant Scheme opened for applications on 15 April 2018. This scheme will support activity which celebrates and commemorates the centenary with small grants of between £500 and £5000. The deadline for applications was 5pm on Friday 11 May. Supporting guidance and information on how to apply to the scheme is available online. The Scottish Government Equality Unit will oversee the distribution of small grants made through the scheme. This will include all aspects of sifting applications, administering grants and monitoring impact.

In regards to the wider £500,000 funding, including the grants made to Glasgow Women's Library and Artichoke, the Scottish Government Equality Unit will oversee all aspects of the administration and monitoring of grants.

  • "when the idea of the fund announced by the First Minister was first floated within government and copies of a paper trail [including emails, memos, minutes, and position papers] setting out the key points of development from the original idea to the day the announcement was made;

  • if not in the above, copies notes, emails, minutes which provide the rationale for not opening the fund for applications on the same day that it was announced or within the same week;

  • what work has been done to develop the fund [criteria to be used, outcomes to be achieved, limits on grants to be provided etc.] since the announcement, and copies of a paper trail on the main elements of that work [including emails, memos, minutes and position papers] from that time to the current date.

In relation to the second bullet above, the Scottish Government does not have the information requested. This is because the Scottish Government did not have any expectation of opening a fund for applications on 6th February or within the same week and therefore no rationale was provided for not doing so.

In relation to the first and third bullets above, some of the information you have requested is now publically available. For example, guidance on the criteria and limits for grants under the Scottish Government Centenary Small Grant Scheme is available online. Some of the information is attached separately. However, 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 s.29(1)(a) (policy formulation) and s.29(1)(b) (ministerial communications) of FOISA apply to that information. The reasons why these exemptions apply are explained below.

Reasons for not providing information

Exemptions to the FOI.

Section 29(1)(a) – formulation or development of government policy.

An exemption under section 29(1)(a) of FOISA (formulation or development of government policy) applies to some of the information requested because it relates to the development of the Scottish Government's policy on the funding to celebrate the centenary of women's suffrage.

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, and to inform public debate. However, there is a greater public interest in high quality policy and decision-making, and in the properly considered implementation and development of policies and decisions. This means that Ministers and officials need to be able to consider all available options and to debate those rigorously, to fully understand their possible implications. Their candour in doing so will be affected by their assessment of whether the discussions on the funding to celebrate the centenary of women's suffrage will be disclosed in the near future, when it may undermine or constrain the Government's view on that policy while it is still under discussion and development.

Section 29(1)(b) – Ministerial communications.

An exemption under section 29(1)(b) of FOISA (Ministerial communications) applies to some the information requested because it relates to communications between Scottish Ministers.

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, and to inform public debate. However, there is a greater public interest in allowing Ministers a private space within which policy positions can be explored and refined, until the Government as a whole can reach a decision that is sound and likely to be effective. This private thinking space also allows for all options to be properly considered, so that good policy decisions can be taken. Premature disclosure is likely to undermine the full and frank discussion of issues between Ministers, which in turn will undermine the quality of the policy making process.

About FOI

The Scottish Government is committed to publishing all information released in response to Freedom of Information requests. View all FOI responses at http://www.gov.scot/foi-responses

Contact

Please quote the FOI reference

Central Enquiry Unit
Email: ceu@gov.scot
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
Regent Road
Edinburgh
EH1 3DG