Subscribe to Holyrood updates

Newsletter sign-up


Follow us

Scotland’s fortnightly political & current affairs magazine


Subscribe to Holyrood
by Sofia Villegas
01 September 2023
Scotland could become ‘world leader’ in ethical data access

It was the final output of the expert cohort on the Unlocking the Value of Data programme

Scotland could become ‘world leader’ in ethical data access

A group of experts has published recommendations for private sector access to data that could make Scotland a leading ethical digital nation. 

Commissioned early last year by former minister for Business, Trade, Tourism and Enterprise, Ivan McKee, the report was the final output from the independent expert group (IEG) on the Unlocking the Value of Data programme. 

The group said that when public sector personal data is used by the private sector, it should be done in a way which delivers “public benefit and is in the public interest”.

It said consideration should be given to the potential benefits and consequences of data use for the public;  people’s rights (in particular the right to privacy); and any value (and also any costs and harm) that is expected to be generated by the data use (viewing value in the broadest economic, social and/or environmental terms), including how these benefits and value will be shared with the public.

The group had stakeholders from diverse backgrounds including law, civil society, open data and digital media. Since last year, it had been tasked with considering the use of public sector personal data by the private sector based on feedback that data controllers were unsure of their decision making in this matter. 

Angela Daly, chair of the IEG, said: “The current landscape is highly complex so what we are looking to do is to establish a high-level policy statement and guiding principles for those in the public sector who are charged with protecting, managing and realising the value of our data.

“I hope that this report will position Scotland as an internationally leading Ethical Digital Nation. In doing so, Scotland will implement excellence and equity in enabling engagement, and sharing the benefits of private sector use of public sector personal data.”

Currently, data protection is a reserved matter of the UK Government. Despite the law permitting access to personal data in certain circumstances, previous research revealed uncertainty regarding ethics and best practices had led to a “culture of caution” due to fear of “public backlash” if something goes wrong.

Scottish Government Innovation Minister, Richard Lochhead, said the recommendations would be “carefully considered”.

Holyrood Newsletters

Holyrood provides comprehensive coverage of Scottish politics, offering award-winning reporting and analysis: Subscribe

Read the most recent article written by Sofia Villegas - Tess White's Political Spin.

Get award-winning journalism delivered straight to your inbox

Get award-winning journalism delivered straight to your inbox


Popular reads
Back to top