Police are investigating whether someone with access to the tram inquiry offices was responsible for stealing encrypted laptops amid claims of basic errors in security.
Thieves broke in to the offices of the judge-led inquiry into the construction of the tram project, taking an unspecified number of computers between last Thursday night and Friday morning. No other companies in the building were targeted during the break-in, and there was no indication of forced entry to the suite of offices.
And concerns have now been raised over the security of sensitive and confidential information after it emerged that a door access system for the tram inquiry offices at Waverley Gate was inherited from the previous occupants with existing key cards still active – effectively failing to change the locks.
Access cards clearly marked as being from the tram inquiry were also left “lying about” according to a source with detailed knowledge of security arrangements, prompting fears over the safety of confidential testimony from whistleblowers.
The Evening News understands that the inquiry, led by Lord Hardie, inherited the access system when it moved into the offices being provided by Scottish Government arts agency Creative Scotland.
Security contractors were called in on Monday to wipe the system. New access cards are set to be issued to tram inquiry staff giving the inquiry full control over the number and identity of people with access to the office for the first time despite it starting work several months ago.
Police are currently investigating how thieves gained access to the offices, with investigators not ruling out the possibility that the theft was made by someone with a swipe card for the office.
A source within Waverley Gate told the Evening News that there was no sign of forced entry to the tram inquiry office suite, and no disturbance reported on the night of the theft.
The source said: “It must have been an inside job. It was definitely someone who used a swipe card to get in.
“You often see pass badges lying about on floors or on desks for the tram inquiry. I have actually seen a pass badge written with black magic marker, ‘Edin Tram Inq’. That was sitting on the (main Waverley Gate) reception desk for weeks and weeks.”
A spokeswoman for Creative Scotland told the Evening News that it was cooperating with the police investigation.
She said: “The inquiry is currently occupying a space previously occupied by Creative Scotland, the security for which is their responsibility.
“Creative Scotland has offered its support and assistance to the building management, the trams inquiry and police.”
The Waverley Gate building is covered internally by CCTV cameras, including in the main entrance and the stairwells leading up to the first floor tram inquiry office, but there are no cameras covering the entry door itself.
A spokeswoman for Police Scotland said: “Our inquiries are ongoing regarding access to the building. As standard for any investigation, police will utilise all evidence.”
Lothians MSP Sarah Boyack warned that witnesses would hesitate to provide the inquiry with information if they feared it wasn’t being held securely, and called for lessons to be learned from the theft.
She said: “The tram inquiry has responsibility for sifting through highly sensitive data and it is vital that confidence is given regarding the security of the process.
“Any concerns about the anonymity of evidence provided to the inquiry could deter people from coming forward with information to shed light on the difficulties which surrounded the tram project. The police are continuing to investigate and it is important that lessons are learned from their findings.”
A spokesman for the tram inquiry did not address questions on access and security, saying: “As the incident is currently under investigation by Police Scotland it is not appropriate to comment further on this matter.”