Publication - FOI/EIR release

Information pertaining to International Scottish Government offices: FOI release

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

Published:
29 Jun 2021
Information pertaining to International Scottish Government offices: FOI release
FOI reference: FOI/202100206555
Date received: 25 May 2021
Date responded: 25 Jun 2021
Information requested

(1) Who authorised the spending on a Brussels office and Danish office?
(2) Was the ‘right first time’ protocol followed in deciding to spend taxpayer money on what appears to be reserved matters, and can you provide evidence of this?
(3) If a copy of a report justifying and setting out what these offices are designed to achieve exists, I request a copy.
(4) To whom do the people working in these offices report in terms of line management and ultimate ministerial responsibility, what Scottish Goverment department do they sit in? 
(5) Were the job vacancies advertised in Scotland?  If so, I’d like a copy of each job description.  
(6) I’d like to request the job titles of all staff members working at these locations
(7) Can you provide a copy of all policy documents relating to the aims and objectives of these two locations.
(8) Please provide names and number of visits to these locations by Scottish government MSPs, Ministers, Civil servants who are not permanently based there.

Response

While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance we are unable to provide some of the information you have requested. In part, this is because the Scottish Government has no office in Denmark.

As a result, for several elements of your request there is no information held and much of this response relates directly to information held on the Scottish Government’s office in Brussels and Belgium. You may wish to contact Scottish Development International for information regarding their presence in Denmark.

Some information you have requested is subject to an exemption under section s.38(1)(b) (personal information) of FOISA. This is because it is personal data of a third party, specifically the names of individuals, 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. This exemption applies to the attached monitoring report (request item (3)) and small elements of attached previous job adverts (request item (5)). Additional redactions have been made to the monitoring report as it contains information that is out of scope of your request.

Further, some of the information you have requested is publicly available from other sources. Under section 25(1) of FOISA, we do not have to give you information which is already reasonably accessible to you. 

1 & 2.
The Scottish Parliament is ultimately responsible for the authorisation of all Scottish Government spending through the parliamentary approval process for each year’s Budget Bill, then Budget Act. A Budget Bill is introduced to the Parliament every year and the budget put forward aligns with the commitments and policies of elected Scottish Ministers who submit the legislation. The Budget Bill/Act itself sets out the powers with which, and purposes for which, Scottish Ministers may use resources.

You may wish to consult the Scottish Parliament website which includes Scottish Government budget publications. 

3 & 4.
Please find the most recently completed monitoring and evaluation report for international offices, which covers the 2019-20 period, attached separately. The report pertains to the wider Scottish Government international network – beyond your request detail – but was previously released with redactions forscope and personal information reasons as above. The report is therefore being released again to fulfil your request. 

Please also find attached a copy of the distinct monitoring and evaluation report for Scotland House Brussels from 2018-19.

Scottish Government staff based in Scotland House Brussels report to Martin Johnson, Director, Brussels who in turn reports to Ken Thomson, Director-General for Constitution and External Affairs for the Scottish Government. Ministerial responsibility for Scotland House Brussels rests with the Cabinet Secretary for the Constitution, External Affairs and Culture who ultimately reports to the First Minister.

5 & 6.
Available previous job adverts for roles at Scotland House Brussels have been attached, contained within document 2.

Under section s.38(1)(b) (personal information) of FOISA, minor redactions have been where relevant. Other previous vacancy adverts for roles at Scotland House Brussels that have been archived, including UK-based posts and country-based posts, are publicly available from different sources online. For example:
Via https://fco.tal.net/candidate:

Via the Work for Scotland site:

Job titles/roles of current staff members at Scotland’s House Brussels can be found on the Scottish Government webpage for details of staff at our office in Brussels.

7.
The following information forms a policy briefing document regarding the purpose and budget of Scotland House Brussels and is being released to fulfil your request:

1. Scotland has a long-standing presence in Brussels and Scotland House Brussels has been located on the Rond-Point Schuman, at the heart of the EU quarter in Brussels, since 1991.
2. Scotland House Brussels brings together the Scottish Government and Scotland Europa (a wholly owned subsidiary of Scottish Enterprise).
3. The Scotland House team draws on expertise and experience from across Scotland to support Scotland's wide-ranging interests at the EU level, underpinned by a programme of engagement, events and cultural diplomacy.
4. In 2020-21 the Scottish Government's budget for staff, staff related and operational costs in Scotland House Brussels was £2,088,000. In addition to the 17 staff paid for from this budget, 2 further posts are funded from a combination of other Ministerial portfolios due to the nature of their roles.
5. The Scottish Government's contribution to the cost of rent and utilities for Scotland House Brussels in financial year 2020-21 was £240,086.64.
6. Through the Scotland House team, the Scottish Government engages regularly with the EU Institutions, Member States and other organisations and stakeholders based in Brussels to promote Scotland's interests and to share and exchange knowledge, best practice and expertise across a range of policy areas.
7. The Scottish Government's engagement in Brussels is driven by the ambitions and plans of Scottish Ministers - as set out in Scotland's Programme for Government and the National Performance Framework.
8. Much of this activity is focused around the following priority themes: climate action and the drive towards net zero; inclusive growth; research and innovation; promoting shared values, and promoting Scotland's interests with regard to the EU-UK relationship and agreements.
9. The Scottish Government also engages constructively with the UK Government and the other devolved governments with a presence in Brussels across a range of areas of shared interests, such as tackling climate change and the path towards COP26 in Glasgow.

Also attached to this response are all available business plans for Scotland House Brussels.These cover 2018/19, 2019/20 and 2020/21 as business plans were not drawn up prior to this date. These documents set out strategic outcomes and objectives for the office for each year and are being released to fulfil your request. As the Scottish Government has no office in Denmark, we do not hold policy documents relating to the aims/objectives of the location.

8.
There have been four visits to Denmark by Scottish Government Ministers within the time frame of your request. Please note that the Ministerial title in the table below was the title of the Minister at the time of their visit and neither reflects their current position nor the portfolio title of the current equivalent Minister.

Visiting Minister

Visit Date

Minister for International Development and Europe, Alasdair

Allan MSP.

June 2018

Minister for Trade, Innovation and Public Finance, Ivan McKee

MSP.

April 2019

Minister for Employability and Training, Jamie Hepburn MSP.

August 2019

Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport, Jeane Freeman MSP.

November 2019

Details of visits by Scottish Government Ministers to Brussels can be found via the Scottish Government’s International Relations pages, and more detailed information about all Ministerial engagements and overseas travel can also be found online.

The Scottish Government does not hold details of visits by Members of Scottish Parliament. For further information where Members have travelled as part of Committee or other Parliamentary business you may wish to contact the Scottish Parliament directly.

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