A FORMER Channel Islands data commissioner will lead the external review into the use of WhatsApp and mobile messaging in the Scottish Government.

Emma Martins said she will “look carefully” at the Government’s current practices.

The use of WhatsApp by ministers and senior officials in the Government came under scrutiny at the UK Covid-19 Inquiry.

It emerged some figures – including former first minister Nicola Sturgeon (below) – had deleted their WhatsApp messages from the time of the Covid pandemic.

The National: Nicola Sturgeon

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack told the inquiry he too had deleted his messages, explaining he had wiped all WhatsApps to free up space on the mobile phone he had at the time.

Humza Yousaf announced the external review in January, after conceding the handling of requests for WhatsApp messages had not been his Government’s “finest hour”.

On Friday, the three broad areas covering the scope of Martin’s review were announced.

She will look at the use of mobile messaging apps, the use of non-corporate devices in Government business, as well as whether updates to the ministerial and civil service code are needed.

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One of the issues she will consider is the retention of information from messaging apps, including if requirements should go beyond the needs of records management policies.

Separately, Scotland’s information commissioner David Hamilton has launched his own inquiry into the use of WhatsApp and informal messaging.

He said evidence at the Covid Inquiry raised “significant practice concerns” around the retention of informal communications from the pandemic.

Martins, who has worked in the information regulatory office in Jersey, will have access to civil service documentation as part of her review.

She said: “I am grateful for this opportunity to support the Scottish Government as they reflect on recent events and seek to learn from them.

“In delivering this external review, I will look carefully at the current practices of Government with the objective of producing appropriate, meaningful and deliverable recommendations for them going forward.”

Minister for Parliamentary Business George Adam said: “We are committed to openness and transparency and constantly seek to maintain and improve our performance in this area, which is why the First Minister commissioned this important external review.

“It will consider how mobile messaging apps and personal devices are used in Government in line with the principles of digital ethics, records management, freedom of information, and human rights.

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“It is hugely significant, then, that someone with Martin’s impeccable credentials has been appointed to lead this independent, externally-led review which will further enhance our robust processes.

“She will bring a wealth of experience to the review process and has worked in the data protection field for 25 years.

“I have no doubt her impartial expertise will prove vital in further strengthening our approach to the use of informal communications as technology increasingly integrates into all our lives.”