Publication - FOI/EIR release

Scottish Government use of public relations and media firms: FOI release

Published: 13 Oct 2021

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

Published:
13 Oct 2021
Scottish Government use of public relations and media firms: FOI release
FOI reference: FOI/202100232978
Date received: 23 Aug 2021
Date responded: 17 Sep 2021
Information requested

“In excel spreadsheet form, please list any public relations, communications, media consultancy or lobbying firms hired by your organisation in the last five years:
Please provide:

  • The name of the firm (or individual/freelancer)
  • The contract number
  • The start and end date of each contract
  • The amount of money paid to each firm (including VAT)
  • The remit/purpose of the hire, and detail of what activities they undertook for your organisation

For avoidance of doubt, please provide more detail than, for example, "communications and PR support". Instead, please detail what specific issues were communicated and how this was done”

Response

Annex A includes the details of contract details, including name of firm, contract number and start/end dates.

In regards to the amount of money paid to each agency, we endeavour to provide information whenever possible, however, in this instance, your request is exempt under section 25 (1) of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act, which covers information otherwise accessible. Information relating to this spend from 2016/17 to 2019/20 can be obtained from the Scottish Government website, via the links below.

In regards to the figures for 2020/21, your request is exempt under section 27(1) of FOISA, which allows public authorities not to disclose information if they already plan to publish it within the next 12 weeks. The Marketing spend figures for 2020/21 will be published on www.gov.scot within 12 weeks of the date of your request and we consider that it is reasonable to withhold the information until then, rather than release this information before the planned publication.

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 some public interest in release as part of open, transparent government, and this will be met by our planned publication. In the meantime, there is a greater public interest in taking the time necessary to ensure the information has been properly collated and checked before it is published as planned.

In regards to the “remit/purpose of the hire, and detail of what activities they undertook for your organisation”, Annex B to F provides details on activities provided by these organisations.

While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance the level of detail you have requested would breach the upper cost level of £600 given the volume of activity the request covers. (Under section 12 of FOISA public authorities are not required to comply with a request for information if the authority estimates that the cost of complying would exceed the upper cost limit, which is currently set at £600 by Regulations made under section 12.)

We are providing full details of the activities undertaken as it is formally recorded within our finance system and hope this provides the insight that you require. As you will see, this runs to circa 2500 records and checking the associated documentation to obtain a more detailed description for each would cost significantly more than £600. If you do require more information and are able to narrow the focus of the request either by reducing the period or identifying specific contracts or topics of interest we would be able to respond with greater detail.

Annex G includes the amount of money paid to each firm (including VAT) over the last five financial years. The published spend excludes running costs.

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