The SNP has been accused of waging a “dirty tricks campaign” against Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale after a confidential email showing how she applied for work experience at the nationalist party 13 years ago was leaked to a national newspaper.
Although Ms Dugdale laughed off the references to her past, Scotland’s information watchdog has now been asked to investigate whether the leaking of information about her employment history may have breached data protection laws.
Details of employment applications and responses from employers can be kept on file for a period of time after the initial application, but there are strict laws in place governing who can access that personal information and how it is used.
The Scottish Sun reported that the Scottish Labour leader had applied for work experience with SNP MSP Richard Lochhead in 2003, while she was still at university. Ms Dugdale said she had “zero recollection” of sending the email, but claimed that the SNP had decided to “come after” her to distract attention from her party’s policies.
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said he had written to the Information Commissioner’s Office urging an investigation into the leak, which he said could amount to a “serious breach of data protection”.
An SNP spokesperson said the fact that Ms Dugdale asked for a position in the SNP “has been very common knowledge in Holyrood circles for a long time” and that “no documents of any kind have ever been given to any outside organisation”. However, The Independent understands that even if no documents were leaked, merely showing confidential material to an outside party could constitute a data protection breach.
Labour said the SNP should promise an end to such “dirty tricks” being deployed for the remainder of the campaign. The party’s shadow Scottish Secretary, Ian Murray, said: “The story itself was laughable but data protection is no laughing matter. People need to know that their correspondence with an MSP will be kept private, not leaked to a national newspaper for petty party politics.
“Richard Lochhead is a Cabinet Minister, he was named in this story by the Sun and neither he or the SNP can avoid questions on this. Nicola Sturgeon must break her silence on this issue and condemn this leak of correspondence to one of her cabinet ministers and promise an end to dirty tricks in this election.”
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