Press release

Report offers new policy statement and recommendations on access to public sector data in Scotland

Published on 31 August 2023

Scotland can position itself as a leading Ethical Digital Nation by adopting new recommendations regarding private sector access to data held by the public sector, according a new independent expert report.

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As the value of data grows ever greater, there are increasing demands and pressures on managing it. While it can help provide great benefits through research and analysis, there are also significant issues of privacy and ethics.

An independent expert group chaired by Angela Daly, Professor of Law and Technology at the University of Dundee, was commissioned by the Scottish Government at the start of 2022 to provide strategic guidance and oversight on private sector use of public sector personal data in Scotland.

The group’s final report includes a suggested policy statement, a set of principles and a series of recommendations to the Scottish Government for more ethical and efficient access to public sector personal data in Scotland.

The recommended Policy Statement is:

We consider that when public sector personal data is used by the private sector, this should be done in a way which delivers public benefit and is in the public interest. 

This requires consideration of matters including: 

  • 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.

Professor Daly said, “There may be great benefits in the public and private sectors working together to realise the full potential of data but this has to be managed in a way that is ethical, appropriate and brings societal benefits.

“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. Furthermore, Scotland can provide an important example of doing data better for other countries and nations.”

Richard Lochhead, Scottish Government Innovation Minister, said, “I welcome this report and thank the independent expert group for its valuable contribution and recommendations, which will be carefully considered by the Scottish Government.” 

The full report can be read here


Roddy Isles

Head of Corporate Communication

+44 (0)1382 384910