The Scottish Identity Card Scandal:
Campaign News - 2015 (Mar.)

Scottish ID Card

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68.  HawkTalk Blog, 2 Mar. 15 - Development of a Scottish Population Register/ID Card Scheme is subject to ICO criticism

In January,  I published a blog on how the Scottish Government were consulting on plans to transform the current NHS Central Register ("NHSCR") into a population register without much thought about the Data Protection Act (DPA). The ICO has just published a contribution to that consultation  process that, when you strip away the diplomatic language, comes to a similar conclusion...

Assuming the ICO would probably contribute to the consultation process, I asked the ICO for a copy of his submission, which duly arrived just in time for some light weekend reading. This blog is a summary of the critical commentary; the full submission can be accessed below.

One of the criticisms the ICO makes (in several places) is that, in relation to processing purpose (e.g. disclosure of personal data from the revised NHSCR): "we wish to draw attention to a concern that neither the current Regulations nor the proposed amendments specify explicitly the purposes for disclosure taking place". This in fact is recognition that the NHSCR project is being developed using wide-ranging powers that permit disclosure for any future (unspecified) purpose...

[His] comments can be roughly translated as: "Please fetter the powers to disclose for any purpose and identify the disclosure purpose if you intend other bodies to gain access to the population register".

In the blog, I also made the comment that a Privacy Impact Assessment was absent. The ICO agrees and states:

"Furthermore, prior to agreeing the Regulations, a Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) should be undertaken for any of the above elements which have not yet been subject to a PIA. These PIAs should draw upon the responses to the consultation and any existing PIA should be reviewed in the light of the responses"...

The ICO draws attention to one of the identified purposes of the scheme; namely to "assist with the tracing of certain persons (e.g. children missing within the education system and foreign individuals who may not have settled outstanding accounts before leaving the country)"...

He concludes [his comments] by repeating his PIA point that:

"…we strongly recommend that the Regulations are amended so as to specify and limit the purposes of sharing clearly within the legislation" and that "Prior to the implementation of these proposals, and as indicated above, full PIAs drawing upon the responses to this consultation should be undertaken"...

However, the most critical comment relates to "the concerns reported recently in the media in respect of the proposals in that they will effectively turn the UCRN into a national identity number".

He then adds: "If we are to have a national identity number this should be the subject of proper debate and be accompanied by suitable safeguards. It should not just happen by default".

And so say all of us!

NHS Central Register - ICO Response Feb 2015:

69.  Third Force News, 2 Mar. 15 - Privacy fury at big brother database plans, Graham Martin

Plans to share confidential NHS information could infringe civil liberties, say campaigners

eye + binary digits

Civil rights groups have blasted big brother style moves which could amount to the introduction of ID cards by stealth.

The Scottish Government wants to create a new database which would allow public bodies, including tax authority HMRC, access to private data about every adult.

This would be done using the country's central NHS register, using the unique citizen reference number which everyone who accesses health services is given.

The register is the most complete and authoritative record of individuals in Scotland, holding the basic demographic details of everyone who is born, who has died or is, or has been, on the list of a GP in Scotland...

Public consultation on the proposal ended last week and Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group (ORG), said the database could allow the accessing of personal data and open a door to future data mining and profiling...

Killock said: "The Scottish Government should reject these proposals and review their entire identity and data sharing systems to safeguard the privacy of the Scottish people."

The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Social Enterprise Scotland, the Electoral Reform Society, Democratic Society and Dr Oliver Escobar, lecturer in public policy at the University of Edinburgh, have all written to the Scottish Government, expressing their misgivings...

[Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie] has said: "Anyone with a liberal bone in their body will find the SNP's super ID database plans worrying."...

The Scottish Human Rights Commission has said it would monitor the plans closely.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: "We have an unequivocal commitment to protecting and respecting individuals' privacy and will respond to the consultation adhering to that," she said...

70.  Guardian, 2 Mar. 15 - Scottish identity database plans carry privacy risk, ministers warned, Severin Carrell

Scottish identity database plans carry privacy risk, ministers warned


UK information commissioner says proposals to put every Scottish citizen on a central database risk breaching data protection laws and privacy standards

Scottish ministers have been warned by the UK information commissioner that plans for a Scotland-wide ID database risks personal privacy and civil liberties, and had not been fully thought through.

The Information Commissioner's Office said that proposals to put every Scottish citizen on a central database accessed by 120 public bodies, and give each person a unique number, risked breaching data protection laws and privacy standards.

It warned bluntly that it opposed plans for the "creeping use of such identifiers" in case they became a national ID system by default – a key concern raised by civil rights campaigners, privacy groups and opposition parties at Holyrood.

In a detailed letter to Scottish ministers, Ken Macdonald, the ICO's assistant commissioner, added: "If we are to have a national identity number this should be the subject of proper debate and be accompanied by suitable safeguards. It should not just happen by default."

It said ministers had failed to carry out the necessary privacy impact assessment before drafting proposals, and had failed to explicitly set out the reasons why the new national database was needed...

[ICO's assistant commissioner Ken Macdonald] warned that the Scottish government proposals – to include every person on a database with a single account which would merge an existing NHS registry, which now covers 30% of the Scottish population, with databases called a community health index postcode and a unique property reference number – carried risks that officials had not addressed.

The new system would be effectively compulsory, and would move away from current consensual models without sufficient public interest justification. And its use to trace missing children had not been spelt out...

[He said that] the Scottish government wants a single central identity database known as "Myaccount", which public bodies would use to allow users to access services – a system similar to the UK ID card rejected on civil liberties grounds by the UK government in 2010.

Willie Rennie, the Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, said the ICO's warnings were a "devastating blow" to the database plans which needed full scrutiny by Holyrood and to be introduced under primary legislation.

"It would be nothing short of an insult to generations of civil liberties campaigners if we allowed ourselves to sleepwalk towards a national identity number."...

[A Scottish government spokeswoman said:] "The NHS central register has existed since the 1950s, and is already used by local authorities and health boards under strictly controlled arrangements, to ensure they are dealing with the right individual and to prevent mistakes being made. The Scottish government is opposed to the introduction of ID cards."

71.  Scottish Daily Express, 3 Mar. 15 - SNP's 'sinister' plan to track children, Mark Howarth

SCHOOLCHILDREN could be tracked as part of "sinister" new database proposals, the Scottish Daily Express can reveal.

School ID card

A Scottish Government report envisages pupils being swiped in and out of each lesson with their attendance logged and monitored.

They would also be given rewards for state-approved behaviour such as using public transport and eating healthy food.

Put together, the information could create a comprehensive dossier of a youngster's daytime movements for around 40 weeks of the year.

The revelation comes as SNP ministers face accusations that they are trying to build a national identity register.

Dr Stuart Waiton, a sociology lecturer at Abertay University, said: "It is remarkable how unproblematically the people behind this report can explain in great detail how they are trying to socially engineer young people to behave in ways they see as being acceptable...

"This fits very much with the 'nudge' approach of government today where the public are treated like lab rats who cannot be trusted with their freedom to make the 'correct' choices."

In 2012, SNP ministers launched a project to build a national integrated ticketing system.

The aim is to link up all modes of transport across Scotland, allowing people to travel anywhere using a single smartcard.

But Government planners want to take the technology further to ­create a supercard which can also be used to access state services.

This would involve merging the new scheme with the National Entitlement Card or Young Scot Card.

These already allow pensioners to travel free on buses and youngsters to have cashless catering at school...

One example [of how the card would be used] shows how a youngster would be "using the smart card to gain credits/points from a rewards system when the user carries out positive/healthy behaviour – such as using public transport, attending activities (i.e. sports practice, art class), or eating a healthy school meal...

But Emma Carr, director of campaign group Big Brother Watch, said: "This is the sort of mission creep which can turn innocent ideas in theory into invasive backdoor ID cards in practice.

"The Scottish Government must be absolutely clear about how this system will work and what it will be used for."

The Scottish Government would not discuss the report's contents but claimed it currently has "no plans" to introduce the recommendations.

72.  Scottish Daily Express - Leader, 3 Mar. 15 - SNP's social egineers

In itself, the ability to record which lessons Scots schoolchildren go to, and their general attendance, is possibly no bad thing. Rather more worrying is that tracking their movements and behaviour will lead to "rewards" for Government-approved behaviour. After that, it does not take a great leap of logic to worry that they will subsequently be "punished" over any behaviour of which the SNP administration takes a dim view...

It is increasingly clear that this is the most intrusive, socially engineering Government our country has ever known. There is no aspect of our lives into which they are not determined to pry and interfere. Dr Stuart Waiton's claim that we are being treated "like lab rats" is disturbingly accurate.

[Not online]

73.  Scottish Daily Mail - Leader, 3 Mar. 15 - It's time to tell the taxman where to go

IT began in low-key fashion with the taxman, in the bloodless prose of the Civil Service, declaring it was 'proving more difficult than anticipated' to earmark those of us liable for the new Holyrood-set income tax.

We all, although few realise it, have a Unique Citizen Reference Number (UCRN) and a range of personal details stored on the NHS Central Register. HMRC wants the NHS electronic records opened so it can root about to identify who is, for taxation purposes, a Scot.

The Scottish Government rushed to accommodate HMRC and, further, is attempting to open details the NHS holds on us all to groups as pivotal to daily life as Scottish Canals, Quality Meat Scotland, the Forestry Commission, the Drinking Water Quality Regulator and national museums, galleries and libraries.

For the SNP wants to 'seed' the UCRN across all public sector, databases - in effect, linking them up - and allow the police, tax officials and lawyers greater access to people's private information.

Clearly, the SNP's eyes are on the income tax treasure it expects to flow its way - nothing must be allowed to stem the stream of cash to its coffers. Certainly nothing 'as trivial as concerns about privacy and data breaches.

But ahead of tomorrow's Holyrood debate on who should get a look at our NHS details, critics who warn the SNP plans are tantamount to an ID card by the back door are gaining powerful allies.

The Information Commissioner's Office has warned the Scottish Government that its proposals may be illegal 'under data protection laws. Further, assistant commissioner Ken Macdonald backs critics' claims the proposals risk creating a national identity register by stealth...

This paper believes ID cards and databases are profoundly un-British. They alter for ever the relationship between the citizen and the state, obliging individuals to identify themselves to the authorities on demand - a Continental practice that our freedom-loving nation has always resisted.

[Not online]

74.  STV News, 3 Mar. 15 - Scottish Government accused of 'sneaking in national identity database'

TV newsreader

The Scottish Government has been accused of trying to sneak an identity database through the backdoor of the parliament.

The Liberal Democrats have warned the move could put Scotland on the road to having controversial identity cards for every citizen.

Their accusation comes as the UK's privacy watchdog raised concerns about the proposals. The government says no decision on the system has yet been taken.

Since the 1950s the NHS has had a database of Scots' details with information such as names, addresses, dates of birth and services people use but now the Scottish Government is proposing opening up that database so more than a hundred public bodies have access to it — including the tax man, who could use the information when Holyrood gets more taxation powers.

Privacy watchdog the Information Commissioner said that result with every scot having a national identity number, which the Liberal Democrats believe would lead to identity cards for all Scots.

The party has accused the SNP of trying to sneak the measure in "by the backdoor" so on Wednesday they will host a debate on it in Holyrood and STV understands they will get the backing of Labour and the Conservatives in calling for the proposals to be properly scrutinized.

STV News asked the Scottish Government for an interview on the issue but nobody was available to comment, however Deputy First Minister John Swinney said: "We prize our freedom and our privacy in Scotland. Quite rightly, we guard it ferociously and are vigilant about protecting our personal information.

"I can re-state our commitment today that under this Scottish Government there will never be ID cards or anything remotely resembling them...

"We will listen carefully to all consultation responses. And we will act in a manner that is consistent with our long-standing principles in protecting personal data. Decisions will only be taken after full scrutiny by Parliament of any eventual proposals. That is the principle upon which our government is run and will remain so."

75.  BBC News Scotland, 4 Mar. 15 - MSPs debate 'super ID database' plans

files on shelf

MSPs have voted for full parliamentary scrutiny of plans to allow more than 100 public bodies to access personal data through an individual's NHS number.

The proposals would see organisations such as HMRC being able to see certain data on the NHS Central Register (NHSCR).

Opponents said the move amounted to identity cards "by the back door"

The Scottish government insisted privacy would be protected.

MSPs voted 65 to 60 in favour of a motion by Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie, as amended by the government.

It was one of the closest votes at Holryood for some time.

Everyone born in Scotland or registered with a GP north of the border has a Unique Citizen Reference Number (UCRN) held in the NHSCR.

The Scottish government said opening up access to NHSCR would have a number of advantages, such as helping to trace children missing from education...

It added that "only a limited amount of data would be shared" and medical records would not be part of the register.

However, opponents have warned there could be a risk of a massive data breach...

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie told MSPs full parliamentary scrutiny was needed of what he called a "super ID database".

He told MSPs: "The proposal has the potential to cover 120 organisations across the public sector.

"This matters because the current diffuse storage of information has an inbuilt protection from crime and misuse that would be lost with one super database shared across the public sector...

[Mr Rennie also said]: "To allow all organisations to share [the UCRN] number means we move from having a series of numbers to one, single, universal number.

"It leaves open the possibility that information can be searched, profiled and mined."

Mr Swinney said the government will consider all the submissions to its recent consultation on its proposals very carefully, and no decision has yet been taken...

Mr Swinney said the "strictly controlled use" of the NHSCR would be the "most secure, accurate, privacy and user-friendly way" to ensure correct identification of Scottish taxpayers...

Scottish Conservative MSP Liz Smith said there were concerns about individual consent.

"There's no doubt the public will see this as a step too far and one which is really a move to introduce an identity card by the back door.

"To have powerful opposition from the British Medical Association, the Information Commissioner and the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations makes very clear the unease among experts in the field and this must surely make the Scottish government think again."...

76.  Guardian, 4 Mar. 15 - Holyrood backs Scottish identity database, Libby Brooks

MSPs narrowly vote in favour of plans, which have been criticised by civil liberties campaigners

Holyrood Parliament building

MSPs narrowly voted on Wednesday evening in favour of Scottish government plans for a new identity database.

In a close Holyrood vote, proposals by the Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, Willie Rennie, to treat the proposals as primary legislation, thus subjecting them to full parliamentary scrutiny, were rejected. Instead, a government amendment to the Lib Dem motion was passed by 65 to 60 votes.

The Scottish government has agreed to await the results of a consultation on the proposals.

The plans have been widely criticised by civil liberties campaigners as amounting to the stealth introduction of ID cards...

Rennie told MSPs: "The proposal has the potential to cover 120 organisations across the public sector. This matters because the current diffuse storage of information has an inbuilt protection from crime and misuse that would be lost with one super database shared across the public sector."...

On Monday, the UK information commissioner's office warned Scottish ministers in a detailed letter that that plans risked personal privacy and civil liberties and had not been fully thought through.

77.  Scotsman - Leader, 4 Mar. 15 - Concerns over access to personal information

MSPs narrowly vote in favour of plans, which have been criticised by civil liberties campaigners


The incredible growth of information technology and the huge amount of information that can be stored and searched within seconds has brought some tremendous advantages, but it has also raised some big challenges in terms of privacy and human rights.

Last night, the Scottish Government narrowly won a debate on a plan to allow public bodies to access data through an individual's NHS number on a database called NHSCR. Everyone born in Scotland or registered with a GP north of the Border has a Unique Citizen Reference number held in the NHSCR.

Data is already held here, but the government wants data currently held by the National Registers of Scotland by postcode to be added to the register and shared with other public bodies.

The adding of the postcode information would also remove the consent currently required by the address system.

So is this ID cards by the back door as the opposition parties claim, or is it, as John Swinney says, just the addition of individuals' postcodes to a database that has existed since the 1950s?...

Thin-end-of-the-wedge arguments tend to perform poorly, because no-one can predict the future with any accuracy and political environments can change rapidly. But that is not the same as raising legitimate fears about the security of access to the data. The creation of one universal number, the huge amount of data stored by postcode and the number of organisations that would have access must increase the opportunity for abuse, either by malevolent external hackers, from rogue individuals within the permitted network, or by a government agency itself. Surely the least that can happen is that safeguards are spelled out in parliament so that there are reassurances on these reasonable points before this can finally be given the go-ahead.

78.  Herald, 5 Mar. 15 - All power to the LibDems for standing up for our liberties in database debate, Iain Macwhirter

Iain Macwhirter

People often say of the Liberal Democrats: what are they there for?

Actually, they've been saying much nastier things about the LibDems since their leader, Nick Clegg, reneged on his pledge not to raise university tuition fees after entering coalition with the Tories in 2010.

But broken promises aside, I think now we have an answer to what the LibDems are for: they're the only major party, Greens aside, that really takes issues of civil liberties seriously, as we saw yesterday with their debate on the Scottish Government's plans effectively to create a national identity database.

Leader Willie Rennie's motion to stop the measure being rushed through without proper parliamentary scrutiny succeeded by 65 votes to 60 in the Scottish Parliament after an intelligent and thoughtful debate; a rare occasion on which Deputy First Minister John Swinney was sent back to think again.

We need parties that keep a vigilant eye on government. Labour has never quite got this privacy thing having been, for most of its existence, a party very much of and for the big state...

The SNP are similarly schizophrenic. They opposed the introduction of a national identity database in 2005 when it was proposed by Tony Blair's Labour government. But once the Nationalists got into government they started succumbing to the same pressures to tighten up all round...

The SNP's conversion to the construction of what is effectively a Scottish ID database is typical of what happens to well meaning political parties when they find themselves in government....

The NHS already has a record of everyone who has been born and died, so what's the problem?...

Why not give everyone a Unique Personal Reference Number based on the NHS register then make it compulsory, so we know who is whom? Then, maybe, people could use those nice National Entitlement Cards to ensure they get what they are due? All perfectly reasonable until you realise that this is, in essence, the UK identity card system that was scrapped in 2010...

John Swinney's insistence that "no new database is being created" is disingenuous, since of course it is the integration of existing databases that is objectionable...

But organisations ranging from the BMA to the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations are backing the Open Rights Group's campaign against this measure...

At some point all this [intrusion] is going to collapse into one massive database of various classes of information all cross-referenced and much of it unknown to us: an incredibly powerful tool to put in the hands of the state...

Power corrupts and knowledge, or rather access to it, is power in the digital age. The fact that officials and government ministers can't understand the dangers of effectively creating a personal identity register is precisely the reason we need strong political opposition and parliamentary accountability...

Officialdom's demand for information and control of our lives is insatiable. Only the LibDems seem to understand this, which is why they have scored a major victory for parliamentary scrutiny. They are absolutely right to hold the Scottish Government to account and demand that this should be a matter for primary legislation after a national debate on the implications for personal liberty...

79.  Herald - Leader, 5 Mar. 15 - An ominous, unjustifiable and foolish expansion of the state

If personal data was a dangerous drug, governments the world over would be candidates for rehab.

They cannot resist. No matter how much they acquire, they feel an urge for more. They excuse themselves in the name of ease, efficiency, or cost, but nothing sates the appetite. Because the harvesting of information is feasible it is deemed, by a strange logic, necessary.

As it happens, the Edinburgh Government has better excuses than most. The Scottish rate of income tax is due to be introduced next year. Naturally enough, the Government wants to ensure that it can identify those liable to pay. It seems, however, that HMRC is having difficulty in this regard and would like access to an expanded National Health Service Central Register (NHSCR).

Given the "unequivocal commitment to protect privacy" offered by John Swinney, Deputy First Minister, that might not pose a problem if, and only if, the measure is a temporary expedient. But what is this we find? Access to a single central register for some 120 public bodies, access for Scottish Canals, Quality Meat Scotland and sundry others via a "unique citizen reference number"?

This is ominous and it is foolish. At a stroke, the right to privacy would be extinguished. Simultaneously, any hope of real confidentiality would be lost. With so many individuals in so many bodies granted access, security would be a pipe dream, whatever the Government might believe. The UK Information Commissioner's Office has already, rightly, damned the project for risking a breach in data protection laws...

The sense of overreach is palpable. Arguing over whether a virtual ID card is being proposed, or denying - as Mr Swinney would have it - that no new database would be created, is beside the point. A single personal number allowing 120 bodies access without specific consent would be an unjustifiable expansion of the state. HMRC's use of the NHSCR, if it cannot be avoided, must be for a specified period of time only...

[Liberal Democrat Leader] Willie Rennie is right, however. If the Government wants more, it must bring forward primary legislation, not mere amendments to NHSCR regulations. The case must be seen to be made.

80.  Sunday Mail, 8 Mar. 15 - ID database will be a high-risk target for hackers, warn Government's own advisers, Mark Aitken

THE SNP are pushing ahead with plans to open up NHS files to other public services despite widespread criticism.

Shirley Williams

PLANS for an ID database have been undermined after the Government's own advisers said personal information would be at "high risk" from hackers...

The Lib Dems, who claim the move could lead to ID cards, have revealed a Government report into the Myaccount system used by councils warns of the possibility of "compromised records through intrusion"...

They include Lib Dem peer Shirley Williams, who campaigned against the previous Labour government's introduction of ID cards.

Williams said: "We must be careful not to sleepwalk into authoritarianism and ensure that the public understand the ramifications, including the cost...

A privacy impact study of Myaccount carried out for the Government last year says data could be hacked.

It warns of the possibility of "compromise of core national data". And it says there's a high risk of "data leakage".

Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie said: "People will be worried to see such high risks with the current identity register...

The Government said: "The Deputy First Minister this week again confirmed our intention to undertake a full privacy impact assessment."

81.  Sunday Herald, 8 Mar. 15 - Do I believe that the NHSCR database could never be abused? Not for a second, Ian Bell

LET'S assume that everyone who wants to pry into your life has your best interests at heart.

John Swinney

Let's also assume, for surely it's true, that because you've done nothing wrong you have nothing to fear should you share the facts of your existence. In the strictest confidence, of course.

Let's say, to give the matter moral weight, that the system tracking you is doing untold good, that it's aiding the prevention of crime, the welfare of children, and the distribution of public goods to those who need them most. This wonder of the age keeps society functioning more cheaply and more efficiently than anything ever seen.

Do you have a problem with any of that?...

John Swinney, Deputy First Minister, was indignant at the very idea of the SNP reversing its opposition to a universal ID system. He denied that a new database was envisaged. He promised an "unequivocal commitment to the protection of privacy". He swore that no health data would be shared. He sensed, in short, mere opportunism from his opponents...

Technology imposes its own imperatives: if something can be done, it should be done. In fact, in order to be modern, efficient, cost-conscious and of better use to the public, it must be done. And how can any such system be of real use if it is not universal?

What's wrong with Quality Meat Scotland knowing that I am who I say I am? Perhaps because the idea that such a fine body should have any use for a "unique citizen reference number" is bizarre - and symptomatic. Even in a benign form, the belief seems to be that anyone dealing with the public must know all there is to know about the public. In this case, however, any thought of individual consent has been overlooked...

Yet how, you ask, could a few churlish sorts impede services for all? You can't drive legally without a licence. You can't easily work without a national insurance number. A passport is essential for overseas travel. All these are accepted without a murmur.

Leave the ever-expanding war on terror out of it. There are examples enough of what happens when a database culture creates the rules, when it is assumed that no amount of information is ever enough and no-one can be exempt. Mr Swinney was advocating nothing more than improved public services. But that, strangely, makes the entire proposal seem all the more sinister. It's the sense of sheer inadvertence, of stumbling into unanticipated consequences, that's troubling.

Do I believe that the Scottish Government's clever system could never be abused? Not for a second. Do I think it could be made entirely secure? Such promises exist to be broken. Do I wonder why consent was ignored? Most certainly. And do I yearn to become a reference number, unique or otherwise? Not if I can avoid it.

82.  Scotland on Sunday, 8 Mar. 15 - SNP database an affront to liberty, Dani Garavelli

bar code on back of woman's neck

NOT long after the attack on the Twin Towers, the idea of a national database was promoted to the sceptical citizens of the UK on the basis it would act as a panacea for terrorism and identity and benefit fraud. Though civil liberties groups warned that the database and the identity cards that were to accompany it were an infringement of people's privacy and that storing large quantities of information in one place was fraught with danger, and though the Tories and the Liberal Democrats opposed it, Labour was determined to press ahead...

Finally, on 30 March, 2006, a compromise plan finally gained Royal Assent and was set in motion, only for the Tory government to scrap it and destroy the database when it got into power in 2010.

This is an old story, but, you may think, a salutary one. What government – having witnessed this fiasco – would want to start off down the same path again? And yet, despite having opposed the UK government's plans on grounds of cost and ineffectiveness, the SNP appears hell-bent on doing just that. This time round, the party is trying to sell the idea of a national database (albeit without identity cards) as a means of tracking Scottish taxpayers when Holyrood's new income tax raising powers come into force in 2016, and to make it easier to find missing children... Of particular concern is the fact 120 organisations – including the Forestry Commission and Quality Meat Scotland – would be given access to it, effectively turning people's Unique Central Register Number into a national identity number.

The Information Commissioner's Office is worried producing a national identity number for every individual may breach EU privacy laws and the Open Rights Group Scotland has said the move could not help but change the nature of the relationship between the citizen and the state...

Long before the coalition wrecked his credibility, the debate over ID cards gave Nick Clegg perhaps his finest moment. He said that if identity cards were made compulsory he would break the law, by refusing to provide his details. As, initially, they were voluntary for everyone but foreign nationals, he never got to put his resolve to the test.

Last week, it was time for Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie to take up where Clegg left off. He wanted the Scottish Government to ensure the plans for the national database were included in primary legislation, so they would have to be subjected to full parliamentary scrutiny, but lost by three votes...

This is disturbing in its own right: any development which threatens civil liberties ought to be the subject of more public debate than we have heard. But it also highlights a wider problem. With a majority government, and no second chamber, it is possible for controversial measures to pass without much scrutiny...

If, as seems likely, the SNP consolidates its position in the 2016 Holyrood election, then it is going to be increasingly important to find ways of keeping it in check. In the meantime, we need to be vigilant; to ensure the implications of moves such as the setting up of a national database, which involve big cultural shifts, are fully discussed. And that national ID cards aren't ushered in through the back door.


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