JUSTICE Secretary Humza Yousaf has said the approach to biometric data in Scottish policing must be “effective, proportionate and ethical”.

Speaking at a meeting of Holyrood’s Justice Committee, Yousaf said new legislation would create the role of a biometrics commissioner in Scotland to oversee the use of new technologies to keep communities safe.

He said he has an “open mind” about whether to extend the responsibilities of the commissioner beyond the current remit of Police Scotland and the Scottish Police Authority (SPA).

Yousaf said: “The Scottish Biometrics Commissioner Bill speaks to some of the key societal issues of our time, touching on human rights and ethics as they relate to police use of very personal information.

“I want to ensure that our approach to biometric data, including new technologies such as facial recognition software, is effective, proportionate and, of course, ethical.

“This bill creates an independent commissioner to advise on these issues and to oversee police policy and practice. My ultimate goal is to keep communities safe while obviously respecting the rights of individuals and improving the accountability of the police.”

Campaigners have suggested the responsibilities of the commissioner should be extended to other criminal justice users, such as the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) and British Transport Police (BTP).

Yousaf said that while he agreed with the role having an initial narrow focus, the prospect of widening the responsibilities of the role should not be off the table.

He added: “The bill is narrow in its scope – specifically to include Police Scotland and SPA – because although biometrics can be used by other public bodies and agencies, the NHS for example, the way it is used in policing is unique.

“I’ve not reached a decision on whether oversight to other policing bodies should be extended or not, so I keep an open mind on that.”