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Perth and Kinross Council urged to lift WhatsApp ban

Councillors are blocked from using the WhatsApp messaging service on their official phones

finger hovering over WhatsApp icon on mobile phone screen
WhatsApp is widely used - but not on Perth and Kinross Council phones. Image: Yui Mok/PA Wire

Perth and Kinross is being urged to lift a ban on the WhatsApp messaging service, despite controversy over its use during the Covid inquiry.

Unlike the UK or Scottish Governments, the council blocks the use of the chat platform on its phones.

The app was banned on the advice of its information security specialists.

But Conservative councillor Angus Forbes has renewed a call for it to be lifted.

He wants local members to be able to join community group chats.

And he says politicians with nothing to hide “should not be afraid of having WhatsApp messages on council phones”.

Councillor Angus Forbes smiling
Angus Forbes says WhatsApp could be a useful resource for councillors. image: Supplied.

Mr Forbes has been pressing for WhatsApp access since April 2022.

He said: “You’d be amazed how many small community groups run WhatsApp groups to manage their business.

“And with our phones being blocked from WhatsApp it makes it difficult to participate in them.”

Perth and Kinross Council urged to revisit WhatsApp security concerns

The Carse of Gowrie councillor returned to the topic this week.

He said the Covid inquiry had shown how widely WhatsApp was used by the Scottish Government – and this suggests the council should also be able to resolve any security issues.

Nicola Sturgeon wiping her eye while seated at a desk as she gives evidence to the Covid inquiry
Nicola Sturgeon’s use of WhatsApp has been scrutinised during the Covid inquiry. Image: UNPIXS.

“Despite the recent bad news about WhatsApp messages I am still very much of the view that Perth and Kinross Council should allow WhatsApp on their phones,” said Mr Forbes.

“As I have said before, the ability to join small community groups would be a huge benefit to councillors.

“The alternative is to offer up personal phone numbers. But that does mean it’s impossible to switch off from council business.

“The other issue about using personal phones is that – should an inquiry ever be launched – then it would be much more difficult to obtain the messages.”

‘Policy is here to stay’

A Perth and Kinross Council┬áspokesperson said: “Our policy continues to be that WhatsApp is not allowed on Perth and Kinross Council phones, including those issued to councillors.

“There’s no intention of changing this policy.”

Perth and Kinross Council logo on wall of council HQ in Perth
Perth and Kinross Council is standing firm on its WhatsApp policy. Image: Steve MacDougall/DC Thomson

They added: “In exceptional circumstances, where there is a clear business need for WhatsApp to be used on a PKC phone, this can be permitted if necessary.

“In these cases, devices may be subject to inspection at short notice.

“WhatsApp can be deleted from these devices remotely if there are security concerns.”

The use of WhatsApp has resulted in a string of explosive revelations to the Covid inquiry.

Former first minister Nicola Sturgeon and former prime minister Boris Johnson both came in for criticism after it emerged their WhatsApp messages from the time have been deleted.

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