Creation of the Scottish Preventing Violent Extremism Unit

Victoria Quay, Edinburgh

The Scottish Preventing Violent Extremism Unit (SPVEU) runs the Prevent strategy in Scotland. It was initially run by the Scottish Government and the Association of Chief Police Officers Scotland (ACPOS). Since the creation of the single police force in Scotland, it has been run by the Scottish Government and Police Scotland. The information below is from a Scottish Government Freedom of Information response dated 21 December 2009, combined with additional information released on 26 January 2010 following an internal review of the FOI response. It reveals that organisations given Prevent funding included ELREC, YCSA, Radical Middle Way, MEEM, Edinburgh and Glasgow City Councils and Street Project Brixton. A further £106,008 was given by Prevent to undisclosed organisations and/or individuals.

Thank you for your requests of 29 November 2009 for information under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (the Act).

You asked that the Scottish Government provide you with information on the following:

  1. At what date did the Equalities Unit decide to set up the Scottish Preventing Violent Extremism Unit (SPVEU)?
  2. Was this decision taken as an internal initiative of the Equalities Unit or was it a response to an initiative by Scottish Ministers or by another body?
  3. Please provide copies of the minutes of meetings at which the creation of the SPVEU was discussed
  4. At what date did the SPVEU begin work?
  5. What was the budget of the SPVEU for each year since it began work?
  6. What is the planned budget of the Scottish Preventing Violent Extremism Unit for future years?
  7. For each year since the SPVEU began work, please list: each external organisation or individual to which SPVEU has provided funding, the sum provided, and its purpose
  8. How many staff were employed by SPVEU in each year since it began work?
  9. How many staff are expected to be employed by SPVEU in future years

In response to your questions 1 and 2:

The establishment of the Scottish Preventing Violent Extremism Unit (SPVEU) was not a decision of the Equality Unit. It was a decision of Scottish Ministers during June 2008 which was ratified by the Resilience Advisory Board for Scotland (Special) on 20 August 2008.

The establishment of SPVEU was a product of an assessment by Scottish Ministers, and the Board, that Scotland required a national unit to oversee and co-ordinate delivery of CONTEST Prevent in Scotland.

It is important to note that SPVEU is not part of the Equality Unit. It is a standalone unit located within the Equalities, Social Inclusion and Sports Directorate and is jointly managed by a senior civil servant and a senior ACPOS officer.

In response to your question 3:

As you may be aware, the case of Glasgow City Council and Dundee City Council v Scottish Information Commissioner [2009] CSIH 73, the Court of Session emphasised that the Act provides a right to information, not documents.

As such, I have interpreted your reapplication as a request for information contained within minutes of meetings which refer to the creation of SPVEU.

I have therefore attached the relevant extracts from the minute of the Board meeting held on 20 August 2008 covering the decision of the board to establish SPVEU.

In response to your question 4:

SPVEU began work in August 2008.

In response to your question 5:

The total budget allocated to SPVEU can be split into two sections (i) staff costs and (ii) programme costs associated with national and local Prevent project interventions.

In respect of item (i) the total budget equates to £56,700 from August 2008 to March 2009 and £97,200 from April 2009 to March 2010.

In respect of item (ii) the total budget equates to £228,000 for the period August 2008 to March 2011.

In response to your question 6:

The staff costs for 2010/11 have been set at £101,366.

The total budget for SPVEU is not known beyond 31 March 2011 and in terms of Section 17 of the Act, this is a formal notice that information is not held. By way of explanation, this will be a matter for Scottish Ministers to decide in early 2011 based on budgetary priorities and an assessment of the risks, threats and vulnerabilities which Scotland faces in respect of terrorism and violent extremism at that time.

In response to your question 7:

We have not provided full details of all payments made to individuals or organisations as in this instance we assess that exemptions under Section 30 (c) -Prejudice to the effective conduct of public affairs, Section 31 (1) - National Security and Defence of the Act and 36 - 2 (a and b) - Confidentiality apply.

Section 30(c) has been applied to these documents because their release would be likely to prejudice substantially the effective conduct of public affairs. This is because we assess it would be very difficult to deliver the objectives we need to, and be able to work effectively with the organisations and individuals we have built up trust with, if we released the information you requested because it will break that trust and confidence.

Section 30 (c) is not an absolute exemption and so we have applied the public interest test where we weigh up the risk around releasing the information against the interest it may hold to the public. On this occasion, on balance, we have assessed that the public interest in disclosing the information is outweighed by the public interest in maintaining the exemption because release of the information would substantially prejudice the effective delivery of our objectives.

Information is exempt under Section 31 (1) for the purpose of protecting national security. We have assessed that a limited amount of information which we hold, and which would otherwise fall within the terms of your request, falls to be exempted because it contains information relating to national security.

Section 31 (1) is not an absolute exemption and so we have applied the public interest test, where we weigh up the risk around releasing the information against the interest it may hold to the public. On this occasion, on balance we have assessed that the public interest in disclosing the information is outweighed by the public interest in maintaining the exemption.

Section 36 (2) (a & b) is applied to information which has been received from another person where its disclosure would constitute a breach of confidence actionable by that person or any other person. We have assessed that we hold some information which you have requested which falls within the exemption provided under this section because some of the individuals and organisations we fund do not want their details in the public domain and the information was received in confidence.

Section 36 (2) is not an absolute exemption and so we have applied the public interest test. On this occasion, on balance we have assessed that the public interest in disclosing the information is outweighed by the public interest in maintaining the exemption because the reputation and personal safety of those individuals or organisations we work closely with could be put at risk if the information is released.

However, as we endeavour to provide as much information as we possibly can, the following provides an overview of expenditure to date:

  • As described above, the total project interventions budget of SPVEU is £228,000 and covers the period August 2008 to March 2011.
  • As of December 2009 £166,297.28 has been spent.
  • The remaining sum of £61,702.72 has already been allocated against specific Prevent projects.
  • All of this money goes towards delivering the Prevent strategy in Scotland. The table below describes the proportion of the total spend to date against each of the five Prevent objectives and two Prevent enablers:
Prevent ObjectiveSpend from 1 June 2008 - 31 December 2009 (£)
1 (To challenge the ideology behind violent extremism and support mainstream voices.)84,208
2 (Disrupt those who promote violent extremism and support the places where they operate.)9,750
3 (Support individuals who are vulnerable to recruitment, or have already been recruited by violent extremists)525.60
4 (Increase the resilience of communities to violent extremism.)60,797.83
5 (To address the grievances which
ideologues are exploiting)
275
Prevent enablerSpend as of December 2009 (£)
1 (to develop supporting intelligence, analysis, and information)4,140.85
2 (to improve our strategic communications)6,600

Note from SACC - the descriptions of the numbered objectives and enablers in Column 1 were added by SACC using text from The United Kingdom’s Strategy for Countering International Terrorism, March 2009

Please note that whilst the total spend does give some indication of the volume of activity under certain Prevent objectives and enablers, it is not an indication of the respective priorities that SPVEU place on each objective or enabler. For example, Objective 5 (To address the grievances which ideologues are exploiting) is very much a priority for SPVEU. However, much of the work in this area is to stimulate a discourse on grievances which actually costs very little.

Additional Information Released After Review

An internal review of the Scottish Government's FOI response was requested. The review concluded that Section 31 (1) do apply in relation to the detail around some of the funding awarded, but that the following information can be released :

SPVEU indicated that a total of £228,000 was set against a number of projects to deliver the Prevent strategy in Scotland. The table below indicates which projects SPVEU has funded over the period 2008-2010.

Prevent ObjectiveSpend as of December 2009 (£)
1 (To challenge the ideology behind
violent extremism and support
mainstream voices.)
Total spend £84, 208

Radical Middle Way 08/09 - 'Spitin Light' UK Tour - events in Glasgow and Edinburgh in May 2009 targeted at HE and FE student union organisations
£10,000

(*£74,208)
2 (Disrupt those who promote violent extremism and support the places where they operate.)Total spend £9,750

ELREC 09/10 - Contribution to annual 'Schools Conference' and piloting young persons preventing extremism workshop materials = £1000

MEEM Consultancy 09/10 - for production of a DVD and discussion toolkits to explore different communities perceptions of violent extremism. This resource can be used in school and youth club settings = £8,750
3 (Support individuals who are vulnerable to recruitment, or have already been recruited by violent extremists)Total spend £525.60

City of Edinburgh Council 08/09 - Room hire and refreshments / lunch for 'exploring radicalisation' event for police = £525.60
4 (Increase the resilience of communities to violent extremism.)Total spend £60,797.83

ELREC 08/09/10 - All Communities Together community events under SCAVEN Project to create safe space for public discourse on terrorism and violent extremism = £10,500

YCSA 08/09/10 - Voices Scotland community events under SCAVEN Project to create safe space for public discourse on terrorism and violent extremism = £18,000

Apex Hotels 09/10 - Home Office / Scottish Muslim Women's Event to discuss Prevent strategy organised by SPVEU - room hire and lunch = £497.83
(*£31,800)
5 (To address the grievances which ideologues are exploiting)Total spend £275

Glasgow City Council 09/10 - room hire and refreshments for FCO event = £275
Prevent enabler 
1 (to develop supporting intelligence,
analysis, and information)
Total spend £4,140.85

Street Project Brixton 09/10 - specialist public sector and community briefings on de radiclasiation [sic], subsistence and travel = £2,000

Glasgow City Council 09/10 - room hire and refreshments for the above event = £251

Scott Associates 09/10 - fees for presentation, travel and subsistence at national Prevent conference at Scottish Police College for one delegate = £776

Street Project Brixton 09/10 - fees for presentation, travel and subsistence at national Prevent conference for two delegates = £1000

YCSA 09/10 - fee for staff member to attend Holyrood conference on counter terrorism = £113.85
2 (to improve our strategic communications)Total spend £6,600

Digital Media Cast 09/10 - consultancy and initial start up and development fees for SCAVEN website = £6,600
Funds remainingComment
£61,702.72In the previous response to your request, SPVEU indicated that this funding was already allocated against specific Prevent projects. However, due to the current financial situation in the Scottish Government and changing programme priorities, all of this funding has been temporarily put on hold.

(* these sums relate to projects where Section 30 (c) and Section 31 (1) exemptions apply)

In response to your questions 8 and 9:

The total staffing establishment for SPVEU (for the period August 2008 to March 2011) consists of 1.6 Full Time Equivalents (FTE). This consists of 1 FTE secondee from Scottish Police Services and 0.6 FTE secondee from a local authority.

If you are unhappy with this response to your request, you may ask us to carry out an internal review by writing to Dr Kevin Woods, Director-General, Health Directorate, Floor 1E.10, St Andrews House, Regent Road, Edinburgh, EH1 3DG.

Your request should explain why you wish a request to be carried out, and should be made within 40 working days of receipt of this letter, and we will reply within 20 working days of receipt.

If you are not satisfied with the result of the review, you then have the right to make a formal complaint to the Scottish Information Commissioner.

RESILIENCE ADVISORY BOARD FOR SCOTLAND (SPECIAL) EXTRACTS OF MINUTE

Meeting held on 20 August 2008 in Saughton House

SUPPLIED FOR FOI REQUEST 291109

Item 6 - CONTEST Prevent - Proposed Delivery Framework RABS(S)(08)07

1.    Person 1 and person 2 presented three papers which they invited the Board to approve. The papers were as follows:

  • a progress report;
  • a proposed delivery framework; a crucial component of which would be the new Scottish Preventing Violent Extremism Unit (SPVEU); and
  • proposed communications guidance.

2.    Person 1 suggested that the papers demonstrated the considerable amount of progress that had been made on this agenda. Person 1 said that the new SPVEU would bring together a good mix of police and administrative skills within a community-focussed framework. There would be a continuing process of evaluation to ensure that the approaches and messages remained relevant and appropriate.

3.    The Board members were very pleased with the proposals. There was some discussion about how a CONTEST Prevent Indicator could best be fed into the Single Outcome Agreement (SOA) Framework.

In conclusion, the Board welcomed the progress that had been made and approved all of the proposals.

Additional information released after review

An internal review of the Scottish Government's FOI response was requested, and elicited the following additional information about the extracts of minutes:

Person 1 is Yvonne Strachan, the senior civil servant who jointly manages the SPVEU within the Equalities, Social Inclusion and Sports Directorate as stated in the original response under Question 1. Person 2 is Nick Croft, a local government secondee who works with the senior police officer mentioned in the original response under Question 1.

Documents

review_response_foi_09_01676.pdf Review outcome: FOI/09/01676