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Nicola Sturgeon has come under fire after her Scottish Government handed out thousands of ‘unhackable’ mobile phones to prisoners, only for some be used in drug deals.

The ‘tamper proof’ phones were handed out to 7,600 inmates – at the cost of £3million – as part of a project to allow prisoners to keep in touch with family members during the Covid lockdowns.

But more than 720 phones have since been hacked by inmates who have inserted illegal SIM cards used for drug deals and other crimes, according to ITV.

One prison officer told the broadcaster inmates had started trying to interfere with the tamper-proofing ‘within hours’. 

Video published by ITV also appeared to show a man throwing drugs over the wall of Barlinnie – Scotland’s second largest prison.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon today told the broadcaster she was not aware of the issue.

However she promised that Government officials in Scotland – which has the highest drug death rate in Europe – would investigate. 

‘We created a different way for prisoners to have contact with their families, in some cases with their children,’ she said.

‘If you want to give me evidence of phones been tampered with, and I will absolutely look at that.’

But tonight the SNP leader faced fierce criticism tonight over the claims, with one Twitter user describing it as an ‘extraordinary revelation’. 

One Twitter user, Craig Edward, posted: ‘There must be an urgent investigation into this mess. Did the SNP do a risk assessment prior to introducing this policy? Who is apologising for this?’ 

Nicola Sturgeon has come under fire after her Scottish Government handed out thousands of 'unhackable' mobile phones to prisoners, only for some be used in drug deals. Library image

Nicola Sturgeon has come under fire after her Scottish Government handed out thousands of 'unhackable' mobile phones to prisoners, only for some be used in drug deals. Library image

Nicola Sturgeon has come under fire after her Scottish Government handed out thousands of ‘unhackable’ mobile phones to prisoners, only for some be used in drug deals. Library image

Video published by ITV also appeared to show a man throwing drugs over the wall of Barlinnie (pictured) - Scotland's second largest prison

Video published by ITV also appeared to show a man throwing drugs over the wall of Barlinnie (pictured) - Scotland's second largest prison

Video published by ITV also appeared to show a man throwing drugs over the wall of Barlinnie (pictured) – Scotland’s second largest prison

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon (pictured) today told the broadcaster she was not aware of the issue. However she promised that Government officials in Scotland - which has the highest drug death rate in Europe - would investigate

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon (pictured) today told the broadcaster she was not aware of the issue. However she promised that Government officials in Scotland - which has the highest drug death rate in Europe - would investigate

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon (pictured) today told the broadcaster she was not aware of the issue. However she promised that Government officials in Scotland – which has the highest drug death rate in Europe – would investigate

Another wrote: ‘To the surprise of absolutely no-one the SNP have another failure on their hands.’

One Twitter user added: ‘Another embarrassment for the SNP.’

One prison officer, John McTavish, who works at HMP Barlinnie, told ITV he had found a third of phones in one of his halls had been tampered with.

He said: ‘You give a prisoner a phone, and they’re very, very ingenious. If they put their mind to something, they can do anything at all. Within hours, the tamper proof was gone.

 ‘I checked the phones in one of the halls here in March time, and of the 300 prisoners that were there, it was probably about 100 phones tampered with altogether.’ 

MailOnline has contacted the Scottish Government for a comment.

A spokesperson told ITV it was working with prisoners to help ‘to recognise the problems that they have and to provide support counselling and medical help for those addictions’. 

It comes as Ms Sturgeon was earlier this year accused of presiding over ‘national shame’ as Scotland’s drugs deaths hit a new record of 1,339.

The grim toll, announced in June, went up 5 per cent last year, the seventh annual rise in a row.

It means the country continues to have the worst fatality rate in Europe.

With 21.2 deaths per 1,000 people, the level is more than three-and-a-half times higher than the rest of the UK.

Some 291 lost their lives in Glasgow alone – the worst hit area. Of the overall figure, 1,192 deaths were related in some way to opioids.

Amid outrage at the scale of the tragedy, Ms Sturgeon said it was ‘unacceptable’ and each was a ‘human tragedy’.

The grim toll went up 5 per cent last year, the seventh annual rise in a row, as the country continued to have the worst fatality rate in Europe

The grim toll went up 5 per cent last year, the seventh annual rise in a row, as the country continued to have the worst fatality rate in Europe

The grim toll went up 5 per cent last year, the seventh annual rise in a row, as the country continued to have the worst fatality rate in Europe

The latest official figures for 2020 show that rates have soared among the middle-aged

The latest official figures for 2020 show that rates have soared among the middle-aged

The latest official figures for 2020 show that rates have soared among the middle-aged 

Ms Sturgeon was accused of presiding over 'national shame' on the drugs deaths

Ms Sturgeon was accused of presiding over 'national shame' on the drugs deaths

Ms Sturgeon was accused of presiding over ‘national shame’ on the drugs deaths

She insisted the Scottish Government ‘does not shirk the responsibility & we are determined to make changes that will save lives’.

Speaking in June, she said: ‘These 2020 figures (though no less shameful because of it) predate actions set out at start of year.

‘We now have a dedicated drugs minister in @AConstanceSNP, a substantial funding commitment and action underway to eg ensure faster access to community support, treatment and rehab.

‘We will also continue to argue for reform of drugs law, which is not currently within our power.

‘Today, my thoughts are with every family who has lost a loved one – I am sorry for the loss you have suffered.’

‘However, I know that from @scotgov what is required isn’t words, but action to prevent people dying, and that is what we are determined to deliver.’

However, Scottish Conservative Leader Douglas Ross said: ‘The drugs crisis is our national shame. 

‘It is a stain on Scotland that so many of our most vulnerable people have been left without hope, crushed by a system that is thoroughly broken.’

Source: Daily Mail UK

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