SACC has written to the Scottish Government urging disclosure of funding given to Third Sector organisations in connection with the 'Prevent' strategy.
The issue is of immediate concern because we believe that Amina Muslim Women's Resource Centre (MWRC) may have received funds from the Scottish Preventing Violent Extremism Unit (SPVEU), which runs the Prevent strategy in Scotland. Amina MWRC has failed to confirm or deny this (most recently in an email dated 7 January 2016), though it should be easy for it to do so in view of its public pledge not to take Prevent funds.
The Scottish Government has in the past refused to disclose the names of external organisations that have received funding from the SPVEU, saying (FOI response, 21 December 2009) "some of the organisations and individuals we fund do not want their details in the public domain" and "the reputation and personal safety of those individuals or organisations we work closely with could be put at risk if the information is released." The supposed risk to personal safety is of course nonsense. The risk to reputation wouldn't arise if the SPVEU avoided disreputable activity.
The Prevent strategy is a controversial UK-wide programme said to be aimed at preventing people from turning to terrorism. In SACC's view it is a manipulative, discriminatory and Islamophobic programme aimed at suppressing political dissent.
Our letter to the Scottish Goverment appears below.
4 January 2016
To: Alex Neil MSP
Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Communities and Pensioners’ Rights
Funding given in connection with the Prevent Strategy
SACC has been concerned for some time about the Scottish Government's apparent lack of transparency in providing funding to Third Sector organisations for purposes connected with the Prevent Strategy. We feel that it is damaging to the sector and to a broad spectrum of work on equality issues. I hope that you will be able to dispel some of the uncertainty that has developed around this question.
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. My own information (which I have not been able to verify) is that SPVEU funding was indeed provided for these events. I would be grateful for clarification from the Scottish Government.
I believe that it is usual for charities to acknowledge Scottish Government funding, for example by using the Scottish Government logo. That this appears not to be done for Prevent-related funding is symptomatic of deeper problems with Prevent.
Prevent takes a very controversial approach to a range of issues connected with terrorism, war, racism and Islamophobia. This approach may, intentionally or unintentionally, influence the approach taken in events or informational material funded by Prevent. People who may participate in these events or use the material cannot do so in an informed way unless Prevent funding is disclosed.
Uncertainty over this matter potentially affects events unconnected with Prevent as well as Prevent-funded events. It therefore risks undermining the engagement of minority communities – especially the Muslim community – in public life in Scotland.
I hope that you will take steps, as minister with for a responsibility for equality, to secure the release of the information that I have requested.
SACC would like to see an end to the provision of Prevent-related funding by the Scottish Government. The UK's Counter Terrorism and Security Act, while creating some statutory obligations on public bodies with respect to Prevent, does not oblige the Scottish Government to offer such funding. Ending Prevent funding would be a modest step towards a Scottish Government policy that reflects the widespread disquiet over Prevent felt in Scotland as in the rest of the UK.
We would, of course, expect that funding at least equivalent to the amount saved would be made available to organisations doing worthwhile equality-related work, and especially to BME organisations.
If Prevent funding is nevertheless to continue, I hope that you will take steps to ensure that it is provided in a completely transparent way, with full disclosure by the Scottish Government and the organisations receiving the funding.
The problems associated with Prevent funding are just part of a wider problem created by the close relationship between Prevent and the Scottish Government Equality Unit. Prevent deals with security issues that are quite different from the matters that usually fall within the equality policy area. The linkage is inappropriate and damaging to equality in Scotland. I therefore urge you to take steps to create a clear separation between these policy areas.
(Chair, Scotland Against Criminalising Communities)