Social and Equality Impacts of Brexit - questions on formulation of the report: FOI release

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

Information requested

i. What criteria was used to determine which authors to consider for the report?

ii. How many academics, or others, were considered as authors before Dr Hepburn was chosen?

iii. Who made the final choice of Dr Hepburn as author?

iv. What was the brief, if any, given the Dr Hepburn by the Scottish Government?


The answer to your questions are below. Whilst our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance we are unable to provide some of the information relating to your third question because exemptions under s.38(1)(b) (personal information) of FOISA applies to that information. The reasons why that exemption applies are explained in the annex to this letter.

The criteria used, and selection of, the author
The following information sets out the procurement and selection process and answers your first three questions together.

The report was commissioned under a wider Framework Agreement for Research Services in Relation to Brexit, which has been established for the period from 1 April 2019 to 31 March 2020.

The Directorate for External Affairs (DEXA) identified a requirement to appoint a number of suppliers to ensure access to a range of external experts in the field of Brexit (the UK’s decision to leave the European Union) in order to commission, on a call off basis, short and focussed pieces of research and analysis. The intention was that outputs would help inform the development of Scottish Government policy on Brexit, noting UK Government advice around scenario planning and preparing for a no-deal Brexit.

This was the first such framework contract operated by DEXA, and the thinking was that the work commissioned might be expected to take typically between one and five days of activity per call off from the framework and might often involve working to very short deadlines.

Procurement process
The services under this contract were procured via the Quick Quote Process through Public Contracts Scotland.

Due to its relatively low value (<£50k), the requirement fell into the category of the Scottish Route 1 procurement per the Scottish Government’s Procurement Journey Decision Matrix.

The potential suppliers of the services were viewed in the main to be senior academics. A number of academic suppliers who would be capable of meeting the requirements were identified as “Members” of a Scottish Parliament Framework Agreement, and they were alerted to this opportunity through this route.

In addition, the government sought to identify additional potential suppliers through the Scottish Parliament’s AskAcademia email route, allowing contact with key contacts and knowledge exchange officers in all Scottish universities.

The suppliers were asked to indicate the Lot/s (as outlined below) they were tendering for and to provide evidence of expertise in the required areas. The evaluation panel evaluated the tender responses individually against the requirements of the Lots applied for. An evaluation meeting was held to ensure consistency of approach and to agree moderated average scoring for each response.

The requirements were awarded on the basis of the most economically advantageous tender. Daily rates were capped at £400 per day and the price: quality ratio was 20:80 in favour of quality.

Award criteria
The award criteria (that informed the basis of the technical evaluation) is detailed in the table below:

Area for Evaluation Weighting
Technical Proposal (80%)  
Understanding of the Requirements / Methodologies 20%
Expertise & Experience 60%
Mobilisation & Delivery 20%
Scottish Business Pledge and Living Wage NOT SCORED
Pricing Proposal (20%)  
Price (20%) 100%

The following scoring matrix applied:

Nil or inadequate response. Fails to demonstrate an ability to meet the requirement.
Response is partially relevant but generally poor.  The response addresses some elements of the requirement but contains insufficient/limited detail or explanation to demonstrate how the requirement will be fulfilled.
Response is relevant and acceptable. The response addresses a broad understanding of the requirement but may lack details on how the requirement will be fulfilled in certain areas.
Response is relevant and good. The response is sufficiently detailed to demonstrate a good understanding and provides details on how the requirements will be fulfilled.
Response is completely relevant and excellent overall. The response is comprehensive, unambiguous and demonstrates a thorough understanding of the requirement and provides details of how the requirement will be met in full.

Framework procurement stakeholders and evaluation panel
The evaluation panel consisted of:
[redacted], Senior Portfolio Specialist (Commercial Evaluation)
[redacted], Senior Advisor, EU Strategy Negotiation (Technical Evaluation)
[redacted], Senior Principle Research Officer (Technical Evaluation)
[redacted], First Minister’s Questions team (Technical Evaluation)

The broad topics of Lots identified in the contract were as below. Tenderers could apply for one, multiple or all of the Lots.

Broad Topic
Lot 1: A broad, cross cutting view of the negotiations between the EU and the UK on the Article 50 Withdrawal Agreement and the negotiations on the future relationship between the EU and the UK, with a focus on Scotland specific issues
Lot 2: Practicalities of future models for Scotland, and the UK’s future relationship with the EU
Lot 3: Technical and legal advice relating to international trade negotiations, preferential trade agreements, and customs arrangements, and how these could affect Scotland
Lot 4: The operation of the UK’s internal market, and implications for Scotland
Lot 5: Social impact of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU (for example understanding the distributional effects, and implications for equalities strands)
Lot 6: Impact of leaving the EU on Scotland’s rural areas

Framework commissioning process
As described in the Invitation to Tender, successful suppliers were ranked in order according to their relative scored within each of the Lots.

The process for commissioning individual pieces of work is through contacting the first placed supplier on the individual Lot. The supplier is given 24 hours to accept or decline the commission. If the commission is not accepted then the second placed supplier is offered the opportunity and given 24 hours to response and so on.
The Scottish Government Contract Manager is responsible for ensuring the quality of the services provided. A firm price for the outputs is established for each individual piece of commissioned research activity based on the tendered/contracted daily rates (capped at £400 per day).

Process for Commissioning of the Social and Equality impact of Brexit
Dr Eve Hepburn was selected as the first placed supplier in Lot 5, looking at issues related to the social impact of withdrawal from the EU. In analysing the social and equalities impacts of Brexit, Lot 5 was the most relevant Lot, and in line with the commissioning process contained in the Invitation to Tender (and outlined above) Dr Hepburn was asked to carry out the analysis.

What was the brief given to Dr. Hepburn?
As the analysis was conducted during a period of considerable change, there were in fact four separate commissions required, which built up to the final report.

Initially a short “think piece” was requested (September 2019). This was followed by a request to undertake some further analysis in light of the then Withdrawal Agreement Bill and the UK Government’s agreement on a deal (involving two pieces of work in November 2019), and finally a further piece of analysis to reflect that the third broad scenario of “No Deal” (as at 31 January 2020) had become very unlikely but that a broad scenario of No Trade Deal (at 31 December 2020) could be considered.

As the report states this research added up to a total of 22 days (at the capped daily rate in the Framework Contract of £400 per day).

Specific remits
September 2019: To provide a think piece on the possible impact of Brexit - In its different forms, on different groups of people. This includes different equalities strands, and also geographical variations.
There is potentially a vast, and realistically and unmanageable volume of equality impacts to consider.

The purpose of the think piece will be to help the Scottish Government drill down quickly to some of the impacts that are most important for us to consider, for example,

  • most likely to be most widespread (and affect a high number of people)
  • most deeply felt (in terms of possible impact on individuals, even in these cases if it is a small number of individuals)
  • and most likely to happen

The think piece should:

  • Provide some context – for example, describe the general nature of the equality impacts of Brexit, the main ‘unknowns’, and evidence or examples of how uncertainty can lead to unintended consequences for equality strands. We would also like you to consider what affects the resilience of communities and individuals (such as access to signposted information, social networks and capital, financial resources)
  • Set out the rationale, and quickly identify a long list of possible equality impacts of Brexit
  • Explore in more detail a small number (perhaps 3-4) specific examples of some significant equality impacts of Brexit based on the above criteria (widespread/deeply felt/likely)

This will complement a review of readily available analysis within the Scottish Government and publicly available (conducted in parallel), and prove a sense check for this work.

November 2019 - Equality impacts of Brexit: Analysis of new UK deal
This analysis would follow on from our previous commission of a think piece on the equality impacts of Brexit. Specifically it would involve:

  • Updating the context to the original report in the light of the new deal agreed between the UK government and the EU
  • Working with the Scottish Government to discuss and build up some key emerging messages from the analysis, including a couple of meetings and correspondence by phone/email
  • Working with the Scottish Government to help and advise SG staff in developing the presentation of the briefing – for example infographics – suitable for use in a variety of formats
  • Bringing the above together, reviewing some fact checking/referencing work by Scottish Government staff of the original briefing, and production of a revised final report
  • Presentation of final report and discussion with SG staff

November 2019 - Equality impacts of Brexit: Analysis of new UK deal (2)
This analysis would follow on from the previous commissions of a think piece on the equality impacts of Brexit, and an updated assessment following the revised WAB. Given the potential high level of interest in the report, this would involve further work on the development of visuals, and a series of presentations and discussions with SG staff. It also reflects the impact of extensive requests and refinements on the original estimates of time available.

Specifically the work in this commission involves:

  • Further work to advise Scottish Government staff in developing visuals to support key messages in the report
  • Preparation of presentation materials on the report
  • Presentations to key groups of Scottish Government staff – potentially including selected
  • Scottish Government policy officials, the EU analysts network, and EU directorate staff
  • Advising Scottish Government staff on related internal briefing, to help prepare the report for publication

January 2020 - Analysis of social and equality impacts of Brexit: assessment of no trade deal
Previous analysis of the social/equality impact of Brexit has focused on three scenarios – soft Brexit, hard Brexit and No Deal Brexit. The majority of this work was done prior to the UK election on December 12th. At that point the most relevant form of No Deal was an unmanaged exit. However since the UK election this has now become very unlikely and the more relevant assessment relates to a scenario of No Trade Deal at the end of 2020 (including a Withdrawal Agreement bill).

This has an impact in a number of equalities areas, and requires a thorough review of the whole report, and re-drafting several sections.

Annex A - Reasons for not providing information
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. names/contact details of individuals), and disclosing it would contravene the data protection principles in Schedule 1 to the Data Protection Act 1998. 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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