The external review into the Scottish Government's use of WhatsApp messaging will be led by a former Channel Island data commissioner, it has been announced. 

Emma Martins said she will "look carefully" at the Government's current practices after WhatsApps by ministers and senior officials came under scrutiny at the UK Covid-19 Inquiry.

It comes after it emerged some politicians – including former first minister Nicola Sturgeon – had deleted their WhatsApp messages from the time of the Covid pandemic.

Read more: Sturgeon and Yousaf transcribed 'zero' WhatsApps to records system

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack told the inquiry he too had deleted his messages, explaining he had wiped all WhatsApps to free up space on the mobile phone he had at the time.

Humza Yousaf announced the external review in January, after admitting the handling of requests for WhatsApp messages had not been his Government's "finest hour".

The three broad areas covering the scope of Ms Martin's review were announced on Friday (March 22).

She will look at the use of mobile messaging apps, the use of non-corporate devices in Government business, as well as whether updates to the ministerial and civil service code are needed.

One of the issues she will consider is the retention of information from messaging apps, including if requirements should go beyond the needs of records management policies.

Read more: Deleting WhatsApp's a 'pre-bed ritual' says Jason Leitch

Meanwhile, Scotland's information commissioner David Hamilton has launched his own separate inquiry into the use of WhatsApp and informal messaging.

He said evidence at the Covid Inquiry raised "significant practice concerns" around the retention of informal communications from the pandemic.

Ms Martins, who has worked in the information regulatory office in Jersey, will have access to civil service documentation as part of her review.

She said: "I am grateful for this opportunity to support the Scottish Government as they reflect on recent events and seek to learn from them.

"In delivering this external review, I will look carefully at the current practices of Government with the objective of producing appropriate, meaningful and deliverable recommendations for them going forward."

Read more: SNP's George Adam deletes WhatsApps messages after 24 hours

Minister for parliamentary business George Adam said: "We are committed to openness and transparency and constantly seek to maintain and improve our performance in this area, which is why the First Minister commissioned this important external review.

"It will consider how mobile messaging apps and personal devices are used in Government in line with the principles of digital ethics, records management, freedom of information, and human rights.

"It is hugely significant, then, that someone with Ms Martins' impeccable credentials has been appointed to lead this independent, externally-led review which will further enhance our robust processes.

"She will bring a wealth of experience to the review process and has worked in the data protection field for 25 years.

"I have no doubt her impartial expertise will prove vital in further strengthening our approach to the use of informal communications as technology increasingly integrates into all our lives."

Read more: Nicola Sturgeon-era WhatsApp deletion 'may have subverted FoI regime'

Reacting to the news, Scottish Conservative Chairman Craig Hoy MSP said: “SNP ministers must ensure this much-needed review does not just amount to an exercise in lip service or box ticking.

“The SNP have a brass neck claiming they are committed to transparency when the Covid inquiry exposed the industrial scale deletion of crucial messages during the pandemic. Their actions amounted to an unforgivable betrayal of bereaved families.

“This review must also deliver full clarity for Scots who have been subjected to wholly contradictory messages from senior SNP figures about their use of WhatsApp since they have been in power.

“It is clearer than ever that the SNP are addicted to cover-up and secrecy and the public will be rightly be concerned that this review is merely a cosmetic exercise.”