AT least three SNP ministers are using an encrypted messaging service to discuss work with civil servants and advisers, the Scottish Government has confirmed.

Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf and children’s minister Maree Todd use WhatsApp to communicate with their respective private offices.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman also uses the app to communicate with a Special Adviser.

The disclosure has prompted fresh concerns about secrecy and standards of official record keeping at the top of the Government.

Last year it emerged Nicola Sturgeon had her personal SNP email account for “urgent business” from officials for four years.

It led to concerns she was trying to dodge Freedom of Information (FoI) law, as government accounts are subject to strict data retention rules, but not an SNP account.

The disclosure of the WhatsApp groups was made by Graeme Dey, the minister for parliamentary business, in a letter to Holyrood’s Public Audit Committee, which was first reported by the Times.

Responding to MSPs’ queries about ministers and their advisers using WhatsApp, he said: “Having consulted with colleagues, I can confirm there are three Whatsapp groups we are aware of which are used regularly or semi-regularly by Ministers and Special Advisers to assist with day to day communication in the Scottish Government work place.

“These are used for logistical or leave planning purposes, not for substantive discussion about Scottish Government business.

“I understand these groups are used on an ad hoc basis, often when other forms of communication are unavailable.

“Ministers, Special Advisers and their offices are aware that any information communicated via Whatsapp is subject to FOISA [the Freedom of Information Scotland Act 2002], wherever it relates to the work of the Scottish Government.

“There may of course be other instances where Ministers or Special Advisers use Whatsapp for purposes unconnected to their Scottish Government roles.”

The Herald revealed yesterday that the Scottish Government has no standard record of Derek Mackay’s resignation in disgrace as Finance Secretary last week, prompting transparency concerns.

Officials said there was no exchange of resignation letters between Mr Mackay and the First Minister after he quit over pestering a 16-year-old boy on social media.

Labour MSP Anas Sarwar said: “There is nothing wrong with WhatsApp groups for personal discussions, but when it comes to government business there is a duty to be transparent and open, to ensure there is no attempt to dodge scrutiny or get around FoI law.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Any information communicated via WhatsApp is subject to [FoI law], wherever it relates to the work of the government.

“The government has always recognised that FoI applies to all types of recorded information.”