CONCERNS HAVE been raised over the health of Scotland's flood warning system in the aftermath of a cyber-attack on the Scottish Environment Protection Agency.

The 'ransomware' hack into SEPA's computer systems late last year involved the theft of thousands of confidential documents, with the international gang involved then demanding money from the agency. When SEPA refused to pay anything, the data was posted online.

Speaking at the time, chief executive Terry A’Hearn said: “We’ve been clear that we won’t use public finances to pay serious and organised criminals intent on disrupting public services and extorting public funds."

However, the disruption to SEPA's computers has had lingering effects, with a number of the agency's key operations still closed down as work is underway to make the system secure again.

Scottish Conservative MSP Finlay Carson raised the issue in Holyrood last week when he asked Scottish government minister Ben Macpherson for an update.

Mr Carson noted the severe weather warnings in recent weeks, and stressed that SEPA's river level warning systems were critical to the protection of our communities like Newton Stewart and Dumfries, in his own constituency.

“Can the minister tell me when these systems will be back up and running and why after six weeks communities are left potentially vulnerable?”

Responding, Mr Macpherson said the cyber attack had been 'very significant' and said that all measures were being taken to deal with the situation.

The minister added: “The SEPA flood warnings are an important contribution to building more resilient communities and SEPA is continuing to develop its forecasting warning services over the next five years.”