Scottish Government refuses to disclose "anti-terror" charity funding

SACC Statement

On 4 January SACC wrote to Alex Neil MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Communities and Pensioners Rights, urging transparency over the provision of Scottish Government funding to Third Sector organisations for purposes connected with the Prevent Strategy. The Scottish Government has instead refused to publish any information at all about the "Prevent" funding it gives to such organisations.

"Prevent" is widely regarded as toxic. The UCU (University and College Union) and the NUS (National Union of Students) have policies of non-cooperation with "Prevent". Many Muslims dislike it deeply. SACC and other organisations regard it as Islamophobic.

The Scottish Government's policy of secrecy is an attempt to expose people to "Prevent" by subterfuge. In doing so, they risk creating a climate of suspicion around the whole of the Third Sector, including organisations that have had nothing to do with "Prevent".

In our letter to Alex Neil, we asked:

"Please let me know what funds have been provided over the last three years to charities and other NGOs and Third Sector organisations by the Scottish Preventing Violent Extremism Unit (SPVEU), and also any other funds provided to charities and other NGOs and Third Sector organisations by the Scottish Government for purposes connected with Prevent.

In particular, please let me know whether such funding has been provided to Amina Muslim Women's Resource Centre (MWRC) for the "Take Ownership" workshops in which MWRC has been involved."

The SPVEU is run jointly by the Scottish Government and Police Scotland to oversee and coordinate the Prevent strategy in Scotland.

SACC has received information that Amina's "Take Ownership" workshops are funded by the SPVEU, even though Amina has pledged not to take Prevent funds. Amina has so far failed to say whether or not the workshops are funded by the SPVEU.

The Scottish Government responded (see below for its full response):

"...we work with communities in order to see how we can best challenge terrorist narratives and provide support and guidance to those individuals who are potentially vulnerable to radicalisation. We do not disclose details of funding where to do so would prejudice our ability to reach those who are vulnerable."

This response reinforces our concerns over Prevent funding of charities in general, and Amina's "Take Ownership" workshops in particular. It is unacceptable for the Scottish Government to use deceit to reach vulnerable people, and it is particularly unacceptable for it to contract the deceit out to charities. As a result of Scottish Government policy, some charities are likely to be acting as undercover propaganda agents.

We have no information on whether staff in Scottish charities have been trained  - as public-sector workers are -  in how to identify people for possible referral to Prevent's "de-radicalisation" programme. 

SACC demands that the Scottish Government must disclose any funding given to charities or other NGOs and community groups in connection with Prevent and must insist that the recipients acknowledge any such funds publicly (as normally happens with Scottish Government funding). And we ask that the groups themselves disclose any Prevent funds they receive, whether the Scottish Government does so or not.

The SPVEU's total budget for 2015/16 is £202,578.41, according to information released under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act. This includes staff costs as well as funds available for external organisations. For the period August 2008 to March 2011 SPVEU was staffed by 1.6 Full Time Equivalents. The Scottish Government has refused to disclose SPVEU staffing levels since 2011.

Activities funded by the SPVEU are a small but potentially significant part of the total Prevent effort in Scotland. Prevent is also implemented through public bodies. This has been a legal requirement on all public bodies in Scotland - including schools, the NHS, local authorities, colleges and universities since the Counter Terrorism and Security Act 2015 came into effect.

Reply from the Scottish Government

Local Government and Communities Directorate
Equalities, Human Rights and Third Sector Division

2nd February 2016

Thank you for your letter of 4th January 2016 to Alex Neil MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Communities and Pensioners Rights in relation to delivery of the Prevent Strategy in Scotland. I have been asked to reply on his behalf.

The Scottish Government is committed to playing its part in protecting the people of Scotland and keeping our communities safe. Prevent is part of the UK Government's CONTEST strategy, however the way in which we deliver it in Scotland is through devolved functions, reflects Scottish differences and is specific to the needs of Scottish communities.

Prevent in Scotland benefits from generally positive relationships with communities and we recognise that communities are our greatest ally in keeping Scotland safe. As a result we work with communities in order to see how we can best challenge terrorist narratives and provide support and guidance to those individuals who are potentially vulnerable to radicalisation. We do not disclose details of funding where to do so would prejudice our ability to reach those who are vulnerable.

Prevent is intentionally aligned to well-established existing safeguarding protocols. The collective focus is always on the early identification of risk to individuals, by providing them with the appropriate support to stop them from becoming radicalised or drawn in to terrorism before any crime is committed.

The Scottish Government is committed to creating a safer, stronger and more inclusive society. We recognise that there are people who do not share that vision and who aim to radicalise vulnerable people, in order to divide our communities. As our approach to Prevent involves working with communities there is a natural connection between it and the Scottish Government's work on inclusion and inequality.

I hope you find this response helpful.
PAUL WOOD
SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT