SCOTLAND is set to become the world’s first country to have a statutory code of practice on the use of biometric data for policing and criminal justice. 

Currently, there is no general independent oversight of how biometric data and technologies are being used in Scottish prisons specifically. The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) looks at issues of data protection more broadly, while the Investigatory Powers Commissioner’s Office oversees “covert surveillance”.

A draft code was recently drawn up the Scottish Government’s Justice and Veterans Secretary Keith Brown, which has now been approved without amendment by the Scottish Parliament. 

The code will now be brought before Holyrood ministers on September 7 and, if approved, will be brought into effect around November 16.

Speaking to Holyrood magazine, Brian Plastow, Scotland’s biometrics commissioner, said: “This will be a significant human rights achievement for Scotland. 

“The benefit to policing is that the code addresses current gaps in legislation and provides a ‘statutory guide and framework for professional self-assessment and decision-making’ by the bodies to whom the code applies to assist them in current and future decisions around the adoption of new and emerging biometric applications and technologies.

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“This would include for example issues such as mobile biometric solutions which have not yet been introduced in Scotland.”

This latest development comes as the UK Home Office recently came under intense scrutiny from human rights organisations and politicians for plans to roll out “facial recognition smartwatches” for migrants convicted of criminal offences. 

In documents seen by The Guardian, those wearing the smartwatches would reportedly have to scan their face up to five times a day. The proposals include the “daily monitoring” of people subject to immigration control, with an ankle tag or smartwatch being made mandatory to be worn at all times. 

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SNP MP Alison Thewliss hit out at the plans at the time, labelling them “completely inhumane”. Speaking to The National, she said: “The Tories are doing all they can to deter migrants away from living a new life in the UK and we will not stand for this.

"The circus that is the Tory government should spend more time tackling the cost-of-living crisis than introducing ridiculous and destructive policies which shut out so many already vulnerable people.

“Scotland needs the full powers of independence more urgently than ever, to welcome refugees from day one and ensure that wicked policies such as these never see the light of day.”