Labour MSP investigated over schoolchildren data

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The UK Information Commissioner has confirmed that an investigation has begun into the disclosure of personal data from a number of local primary schools to Labour MSP Karen Whitefield.

The investigation follows complaints from members of the public after the MSP for Airdrie and Shotts obtained confidential information on local schoolchildren in order to send them personal letters.


The UK Information Commissioner has confirmed that an investigation has begun into the disclosure of personal data from a number of local primary schools to Labour MSP Karen Whitefield MSP.

The investigation follows complaints from members of the public after the MSP for Airdrie and Shotts obtained confidential information on local schoolchildren in order to send them personal letters.

The matter was taken up by SNP MSP Alex Neil who was contacted by concerned parents from the constituency.  It is believed that many of these children are on protection orders and it is unclear how the information was passed to Ms Whitefield.

It has also yet to be established if the Labour MSP still has the information in her possession, who else in her office had access to it or if she passed it on to anyone else.

Mr Neil said: 
“I am reassured at the Information Commissioner investigating Karen Whitefield’s irresponsible data protection breach, and how she got to have this information in the first place.

“This is not a trivial matter despite Karen Whitefield’s blasé response last week. If some of the children were under protection or other legal orders it has serious ramifications and she should know that as the Chair of the Parliament Education Committee.

“I have not been told how long the investigation will take but I hope that North Lanarkshire Council and the ICO publish their findings soon.”

Karen Whitefield has admitted obtaining the personal information from local schools in the area and confirmed that she had sent out the letters.  Ms Whitefield explained that she had been doing so for many years.

In 2001 a similar incident involving the same local authority and Labour politicians also resulted in an investigation by the Information Commission.

Former First Minister Jack McConnell, who was then the education Minister, and Labour MP Frank Roy tried to obtain the personal details of schoolchildren due to move on to secondary education.  North Lanarkshire Council provided the pair with the names of all head teachers in the area and letters were sent to each pupil.

The stunt caused outrage amongst parents and teachers.  It led to the Teachers Union complaining directly to North Lanarkshire Council.

Ms Whitefield is the second Labour MSP this week to face the prospect of an investigation after the Labour MSP for Greenock and Inverclyde, Duncan McNeil, was heavily criticised following remarks he made regarding the deaths of the three Riggi children. 

Home schooling organisation Scoolhouse have confirmed that they are to make a formal complaint to the Scottish Parliament about Mr McNeil’s conduct.