I welcome this report by the Independent Expert Group for the Unlocking the Value of Scotland's Data Programme.
The Scottish Government commissioned this work in order to explore how we can unlock the value of Scotland's public sector personal data in ethical, transparent ways, to realise social, economic and environmental benefits.
Data is central to our aspiration to create an ethical digital nation, where digital services embody the highest ethical standards, personal privacy is robustly protected, people have agency to control their personal information, and no-one is left behind.
While they may seem like abstract concepts, data and ethics play a vital role in enabling better outcomes: from improving public services, to reducing inequalities, to creating sustainable and inclusive growth. The global pandemic, and our response to it, illustrated how the public sector can collaborate at pace, to bring public data together in dynamic, transparent and innovative ways.
While we have legal safeguards in place to ensure the safe, secure processing of personal data in Scotland, we need to address current cultural barriers that impede greater value being created from this data.
Public sector partners have identified the need for guidance when managing data access requests by the private sector. This report provides a foundation on which we can create a framework that will support data controllers to safely, ethically and confidently share data with the private sector.
Public trust and engagement is paramount. Empowering the public to shape the development of ethical practices and approaches is fundamental to securing this trust. In parallel with this, the Scottish Government recently engaged a public engagement panel, whose insights will inform our thinking and strengthen public scrutiny of data-led decisions.
We also require greater collaboration with the private sector in Scotland, to create conditions that enable businesses to innovate with public data, for the benefit of wider society. At all times, value and risk must be carefully balanced. In Scotland, protecting privacy rights and data-driven innovation will go hand-in-hand.
I am determined that we embrace these opportunities to realise our ambition for Scotland to be a global leader in data innovation, based on a solid foundation of public trust and participation.
This report and the supporting evidence – as well as the review of current operational practice by Research Data Scotland – strengthens our evidence base. It underlines our commitment to using data responsibly and innovatively to improve outcomes as envisioned in Scotland's Digital and AI strategies. Furthermore, it complements our data strategy for health and social care, which seeks to empower people to manage their own health and social care data, in safe, appropriate and effective ways.
The Scottish Government will consider this report by the Independent Expert Group, and respond to its recommendations in due course. In the meantime, I would like to thank Professor Angela Daly and the members of the group, both for their report, and for their broader, valuable contribution to this programme of work.
Mr Richard Lochhead
Minister for Small Business, Innovation, Tourism and Trade
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