Election 2021

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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Thursday, March 11, 2021

Meeting of the Parliament (Hybrid) 11 March 2021 [Draft]

Agenda: Business Motion, First Minister’s Question Time, Point of Order, Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill, Portfolio Question Time, Business Motion, Redress for Survivors (Historical Child Abuse in Care) (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3, Motion Without Notice, Redress for Survivors (Historical Child Abuse in Care) (Scotland) Bill, Scottish Biometrics Commissioner (Appointment), Parliamentary Bureau Motion, Decision Time


Scottish Biometrics Commissioner (Appointment)

The Presiding Officer (Ken Macintosh)

The next item of business is consideration of motion S5M-24333, in the name of Margaret Mitchell, on the appointment of the Scottish Biometrics Commissioner.


Margaret Mitchell (Central Scotland) (Con)

As a member of the cross-party selection panel that was established by the Presiding Officer under the standing orders, I am delighted to speak to motion S5M-24333, which invites members of the Parliament to agree to nominate Dr Brian Plastow to Her Majesty the Queen for appointment as the first Scottish Biometrics Commissioner. The Presiding Officer chaired the selection panel. The other members were John Finnie, Emma Harper, James Kelly and Rona Mackay.

The Scottish Biometrics Commissioner is a new independent office holder whose role will be to support and promote the adoption of lawful, effective and ethical practices in relation to biometric data in the context of policing and criminal justice. The commissioner will keep under review the law, policy and practice relating to the acquisition, retention, use and destruction of biometric data by Police Scotland, the Scottish Police Authority and the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner. The commissioner will also play a significant role in education and engagement, to ensure that the public are provided with clear information to help them understand the powers of Police Scotland and the SPA in relation to biometric data and how those powers can be challenged.

It is expected that the commissioner will

“foster close working relationships with other relevant bodies and office holders in Scotland”

and beyond

“whose function might offer insights into biometric data use”.

Those would include, for example, the Information Commissioner, the Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland and the Commissioner for the Retention and Use of Biometric Material.

The Scottish Biometrics Commissioner must also prepare a code of practice and monitor and report to the Parliament on compliance with it; establish a procedure for individuals to complain if one of the specified bodies has not complied with the code of practice; and lay a strategic plan before the Parliament by 1 December 2021, setting out how he proposes to fulfil his general duty. As the first such commissioner, he will also have to establish his office.

The panel’s nominee, Dr Brian Plastow, has significant leadership experience in the policing and criminal justice sector. He was formerly a police chief superintendent, retiring in 2013 after a 30-year career with Lothian and Borders Police, Fife Constabulary and Police Scotland. Between 2013 and 2016, Dr Plastow was employed by the Scottish Government as lead inspector with Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland, providing inspection, scrutiny and assurance reports to the Scottish Parliament on various topics including roads policing, armed-response policing, missing persons investigations and the use of the facial search functionality within the United Kingdom police national database.

The commissioner’s role is an important one in a fast-evolving field in which advancements in biometrics technologies that are used in a policing and criminal justice context need to be balanced with the privacy rights of individuals. The panel believes that Dr Plastow has an outstanding blend of the necessary skills, experience and knowledge to enable him to carry out this important role efficiently and effectively. I am sure that the Parliament will want to wish him every success in this new role.

I move,

That the Parliament nominates Dr Brian Plastow to Her Majesty The Queen, for appointment as the Scottish Biometrics Commissioner.

The Presiding Officer

The question on the motion will be put at decision time.