Publication - FOI/EIR release

Information relating to backdating business support grants: FOI release

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

Published:
1 Apr 2021
Information relating to backdating business support grants: FOI release
FOI reference: FOI/202000129444
Date received: 23 Dec 2020
Date responded: 26 Jan 2021
Information requested

1. Any correspondence (emails, letters, text messages, WhatsApp messages, phone calls or otherwise) between Ministers (including the First Minister), Special Advisors and civil servants in the Scottish Government Press Office since 1 September 2020 concerning proposals to backdate the value of business support grants (regardless of which grant or fund it is a part of) to cover the entire period restrictions have been in place.

2. Any briefings (notes, memos, or otherwise) produced by civil servants for Ministers (including the First Minister) and/or Special Advisors since 1 September 2020 concerning proposals to backdate the value of business support grants (regardless of which grant or fund it is a part of) to cover the entire period restrictions have been in place.

Response

Attached is a copy of the information requested and would highlight that the information contained within this response provides a snapshot of the Scottish Government’s proposals for the provision of financial support to businesses as these evolved in response to the changing nature of the pandemic and on the allocation of consequentials by the UK Government. Specifically, the information sets out the position as was the case at the draft date marked on the attached documents. Unfortunately we are unable to provide all of the information you have requested as statutory exemptions under FOI(S)A apply. Further information on what exemptions apply and why can be found in the Annex of this letter.

The information the Scottish Government holds on record that falls within the scope of your request can be found in Supporting Documents 1 and 2.

As the Scottish Government position around business support continues to change to meet the changing needs of business, new and up to date information is published on grant funding provided to businesses via our website on a regular basis. For reference I have provided recent publications below:

Annex A
REASONS FOR NOT PROVIDING INFORMATION


Section 38(1)(b) – Personal data
This exemption applies to some of the information requested because it is personal data of a third party, i.e. names and contact details, 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.

Section 30(b)(ii) – free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation
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 Ministers and 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 views and opinions of the mailing list will substantially inhibit such discussions in the future, particularly because these discussions relate to a sensitive issue.

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 this 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 officials and stakeholders a private space within which to communicate with appropriate colleagues and external stakeholders.

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 Andrews House
Regent Road
Edinburgh
EH1 3DG