Publication - FOI/EIR release

Covid-19 public spending: FOI release

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

Published:
15 Nov 2021
Covid-19 public spending: FOI release
FOI reference: FOI/202100239702
Date received: 14 Sep 2021
Date responded: 29 Sep 2021
Information requested

Every spending announcement by the Scottish Government relating to Covid-19 made since March 2020, the following information.

1a) The name of the fund
1b) The date it was announced
1c) The date it started paying out its fund
1d) The amount it was announced to include (i.e. Tenant Hardship Loan Fund, 10m)
1e) The amount actually paid out by the fund as of September 14, 2021

Response

In response to parts 1a) and 1e) of your request I have enclosed a copy of some of the information you requested at Annex A, which provides detailed information, by portfolio, of Covid spend for the year to 31 March 2021.

The information provided to you within Annex A gives a breakdown of the £8.8 billion estimated spend referred to in an Audit Scotland report published in September 2021.

With regards to the data in Annex A, please note the following points when reviewing the information:

  • Spend is for the 12 months to 31 March 2021;
  • Spend is referred to as ‘estimated spend’ as it is in line with Provisional Outturn figures presented to the Scottish Parliament on 17 June 2021. The audit of the Scottish Government. Consolidated accounts for the year to 31 March 2021 is ongoing and therefore final figures are not yet available.
  • The Scottish Government tracks expenditure centrally in accordance with the Budget, not in respect of initial announcements.
  • “COVID spend” is not a separate budgeting or accounting classification and so there is an element of judgement in attributing some spend, particularly where existing mechanisms were used to provide aspects of support; this list cannot therefore be considered exhaustive but can be considered as a minimum listing.

Nevertheless, I consider the information at Annex A to be directly relevant to parts 1a) and 1e) of your request insofar as they relate to the period ending 31 March 2021.

The third column in the table names the ‘activity’ for which funding was allocated. For the reasons explained above this is not, in all cases, the name of a ‘fund’ but I consider that this is the most relevant information we hold in relation to part 1a) for the period ending 31 March 2021. Similarly, the information in the final column would seem to be the most relevant information we hold for that period in respect to part 1e), as it relates to the period up to 31 March 2021.

Further information relevant to parts 1a), 1b) and 1d) of your request, up to the period ending 14 September 2021 (the date of your request) is available from a number of sources. Under section 25(1) of FOISA, we do not have to give you information which is already reasonably accessible to you.

The commentary below explains and signposts to where this information can be found.

It may be helpful if I explain that where the Scottish Ministers made announcements about COVIDsupport and the support arrangements to be put in place, in many cases announcements reflected initial estimates which were refined as plans developed. The allocation of funding and spending plans were authorised by the Scottish Parliament in the annual Budget Acts and related Budget revisions.

Background on Fund Information
The Scottish Parliament Information Centre has produced a timeline focusing on Scotland’s response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic including all major developments and funding announcements. Each entry includes a link to further information and/or relevant official reports, policies and guidance. This is still being updated and at the time of this FOI response included updates to 8 October 2021:

Timeline of Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Scotland – SPICe Spotlight | Solas air SPICe (spicespotlight.scot)

Audit Scotland has also produced a series of reports considering the impact of COVID-19 on Scotland’s public finances. The first two of these contain analysis of spending announcements. Audit Scotland acknowledge in their reporting that while the Scottish Government makes announcements of planned spending in real time, based on an initial assessment of requirements, these are collated in the Budget and Budget Revision processes at set points in the year when there is often updated information available.

August 2020 Covid-19: Implications for public finances in Scotland (audit-scotland.gov.uk)  Appendix Scottish Government Covid-19 spending announcements to 31 July 2020.

February 2021 Covid-19: Tracking the implications of Covid-19 on Scotland's public finances | Audit Scotland (audit-scotland.gov.uk) Appendix Scottish Government spending announcements as at end 2020.

September 2021 Covid 19: Tracking the impact of Covid-19 on Scotland’s public finances (auditscotland.gov.uk)

The latest report from September 2021 highlights Audit Scotland’s tracking of the Scottish Government’s Covid-19 public spending announcements as showing a total of £8.4 billion for 2020/21. It reports a total of £9.5 billion allocated for Covid-19 measures in 2020/21, with a Scottish Government estimate of actual spend on Covid-19 in 2020/21 as £8.8 billion. It also notes that the 2021/22 Scottish budget included £3.3 billion of Covid-19 spending.

For more specific information on available funds, a great deal of information is publicly available about the different forms of support:

Announcements on the SG website Coronavirus in Scotland - gov.scot (www.gov.scot)
Support across Scotland Support for people affected by Covid - mygov.scot
Business Support advice Coronavirus support for Businesses in Scotland - Find Business Support and Supporting business: Latest - gov.scot (www.gov.scot)
Support for students Coronavirus (COVID-19) - Student Support - Scotland (studentinformation.gov.scot)

Budget Allocations
For the financial year 2020-21 covering spend for the 12 months to 31 March 2021, the Scottish Budget and the Summer, Autumn and Spring Budget Revisions provide information on allocations including Covid spend. A similar Freedom of Information request to yours was made in April 2021 and you may find the response to this useful:

FOI Reference: FOI/202100189799 COVID-19 Breakdown of funds provided by UK Government as a result of pandemic: FOI release - gov.scot (www.gov.scot)

For the financial year 2021-22 covering spend for the 12 months to 31 March 2022, the Scottish Budget and the Autumn Budget Revision provide information on allocations including Covid spend:

Scottish Budget 2021 to 2022 - gov.scot (www.gov.scot)
Budget (Scotland) Act: Autumn Budget Revision 2021-2022 - gov.scot (www.gov.scot)

A further breakdown of the local authority allocations, including Covid funds, is available in their Financial Circulars, referenced with 2020:
Local government finance circulars - gov.scot (www.gov.scot)

Who manages funds
Spending announcements are made by the Scottish Ministers regarding Covid-19 support and fund announcements. However not all funds are directly managed and paid out by the Scottish Government and partnership arrangements are in place for some forms of support. Several funds are paid through Local Authorities, Agencies and other public sector organisations with closer links to the industries being supported, such as Social Security Scotland, Creative Scotland and Scottish Enterprise. Information about arrangements set and managed locally by individual bodies are publicly available.

Covid related spend for the year to 31 March 2021
The Scottish Government has centrally carried out a detailed analysis of COVID spend to support the annual accounts process for 2020-21. This is information for the 12 months to 31 March 2021. This includes, but is not restricted to, specific funds such as the Tenant Hardship fund referred to in your
request. In addition there is information and statistics publically available in respect of aspects of support, and some of these are referenced below.

Annex A provides detailed information, by portfolio, of Covid spend for the year to 31 March 2021.

Where partnership arrangements are in place additional information may be found by consulting the annual accounts for 2020-21 of the individual organisations. For example local authorities are required to include direct reporting in their accounts for those schemes where they were the principal and may also have reporting for those schemes where they were agent for the fund. This information may be available now or will become available when the annual audit and accounts review process is complete.

Covid related spend up to 14 September 2021
Equivalent analysis to that in Annex A for the period from 1 April 2021 to 14 September 2021 is not readily available. However for some sectors information has been published which does include financial year 2021-22 spend:

Business Support: Coronavirus (COVID-19): business support funding statistics - gov.scot(www.gov.scot) which includes links to released management information which provides Scotland wide management information on funds administered and delivered by local authorities, in addition to management information on the Local Authority Discretionary Fund.

Local Authority allocations for 2021-22:
Local government finance circular 5/2021: settlement for 2021-2022 - gov.scot (www.gov.scot)

Personal Protective Equipment distribution statistics: Coronavirus (COVID-19): PPE distributionstatistics - gov.scot (www.gov.scot)

For the period from 1 April 2021 to 14 September 2021 the Scottish Budget and Budget Revisions documents for 2021-22 can be reviewed for detail on Covid related allocations.
Scottish Budget 2021 to 2022 - gov.scot (www.gov.scot)
Budget (Scotland) Act: Autumn Budget Revision 2021-2022 - gov.scot (www.gov.scot)

In respect to part 1c) of your request (The date it started paying out its fund), I must advise that while our aim is to provide information wherever possible, in this instance the costs of locating, retrieving and providing this information to the requested date of 14 September 2021 would exceed the upper cost
limit of £600. This is because this information is held across multiple Scottish Government divisions, public bodies and other organisations and is not centrally collated. Under section 12 of FOI(S)A 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.

You may, however, wish to consider reducing the scope of your request in order that the costs can be brought below £600. On review of the information for the year to 31 March 2021 you could consider reducing the scope of your request to specific funds/activities.

Similarly, regarding part 1e) The amount actually paid out by the fund as of September 14, 2021) as it relates to the period from 1 April to 14 September 2021 I must advise that, while our aim is to provide information wherever possible, in this instance the costs of locating, retrieving and providing this information to the requested date of 14 September 2021 would exceed the upper cost limit of £600, as this information is held across multiple Scottish Government divisions, public bodies and other organisations and is not centrally collated. Under section 12 of FOI(S)A 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.

Again, you may wish to consider reducing the scope of your request in order that the costs can be brought below £600. On review of the information for the year to 31 March 2021 you could consider reducing the scope of your request to specific funds/activities. From a practical point of view requests
for information which relate to a full months data are also easier to provide i.e. providing information to 30 September 2021 is more straight forward than information to 14 September 2021.

You may also find it helpful to look at the Scottish Information Commissioner’s ‘Tips for requesting information under FOI and the EIRs’ on his website at: http://www.itspublicknowledge.info/YourRights/Tipsforrequesters.aspx

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.

FOI - 202100239702 - Annex A

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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