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

Scottish ID Card

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83.  Sunday Post, 8 Mar. 15 - SNP have made a big mistake on personal data, Donald MacLeod

Hoody at terminal

The Scottish Government's decision to allow public bodies access to personal data through an individual's NHS number is very worrying.

Next year dog owners will be required by law to have their pooches micro-chipped...

I wonder, though, how long it will be before we are ALL micro-chipped, assimilated and logged into a national supercomputer?

Well, given the Scottish Government's very worrying decision to allow public bodies access to personal data through an individual's NHS number, not long!

I've never made any bones about my desire to live in a free, democratic, socially just and independent Scotland. Yet this decision by the SNP to allow faceless public bodies, quangos and agencies such as Quality Meat Scotland, Botanic Gardens, Alcohol Focus and Visit Scotland unfettered access to our personal data seems to be the polar opposite of what I and many others believe they stood for...

More importantly why have we, the individuals, not been asked if we agree to this policy or not? Surely we should be given a form, like they did with vote registration, containing an opt-in box to tick where we can make our minds up whether we should take part or not...

Then there is the issue of security and protection of our data – or rather the total lack of security...

So please don't tell me our records are safe, John [Swinney]. They aren't and never will be, because a hacker only needs to be successful once to cause chaos whereas those charged with protecting and securing our data need to be successful 100% of the time...

I am now a tad nervous, which I never was before, for the future of Scotland if we are ever to become independent. This decision has deflated my nationalist utopian bubble and I now wonder if we are about to replace a rotten, intrusive and corrupt system of governance with one that is just as rotten, intrusive and corrupt but which at its core will be nothing more than a PC, super-snooping, big-brotheresque, one-party state...

84.  Herald - Letters, 9 Mar. 15 - Liberals have a big part to play, Allan C Steele

IAIN Macwhirter's excellent article succeeds in articulating the need for the Liberal Democrats in a way that has eluded many in the party ("All power to the LibDems for standing up for our liberties in database debate", The Herald, March 5).

Whilst we only have five Liberal Democrat MSPs, under Willie Rennie's stoic leadership a potential erosion of our personal civil liberties in Scotland has been successfully challenged. As a loyal LibDem in trying times, I have been asked what the party is actually for. The pithy answer is the protection of our civil liberties - those very freedoms fought and won by generations, including this one, yet so often set aside by others seeking populist quick fixes. The LibDem presence in the Scottish Parliament may be small, but it is highly effective - acting as a bulwark for the defence of personal freedom...

Allan C Steele
22 Forres Avenue

85.  Scottish Daily Mail, 9 Mar. 15 - Call for probe as NHS database linked to census, Mark Howarth

Campaigners demand answers over privacy

3 Daily Mail headlines

OFFICIALS could face an investigation into breaches of privacy laws after cross-checking census returns with the Scottish Government's ID database.

Civil servants staged a 'major project' which linked up the controversial NHS Central Register (NHSCR) with information given in secret during the last national population survey, the Scottish Daily Mail can reveal.

As part of the census in 2011, millions handed over fine details of their private lives - including health and disabilities - on the basis that they would be protected for 100 years.

Now it has emerged that some of that data was matched up with the NHSCR, which was the focus of a fierce Holyrood debate last week.

The results of the trawl were used to draw up a list of 940,000 Scots who didn't fill in a census form and their names were then ethnically profiled...

Last night, critics demanded answers from ministers.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: 'People participate in the census on the proviso that the data is used anonymously. It doesn't seem that parliament or the public were informed that it was going to be shared with the NHS Central Register.

'We need assurances that this data run was compliant with the Data Protection Act and that the proper assurance processes were abided by. These are serious questions which demand serious answers. By linking up two databases, nearly a million Scots on the register have been subsectioned, ethnically profiled and questions asked about why they didn't take part in the census - all without their knowledge or, it seems, their consent.'...

Leaking or sharing of data which could pinpoint an individual is a crime punishable by up to two years in prison.

Geraint Bevan, of NO2ID Scotland, said: 'The Scottish Government has a duty to ensure that people's privacy is not put at risk by ill-considered and non-consensual linking of personal data.' ...

[Not on the Daily Mail website, but a copy of the whole article can be accessed here:]

86.  Herald, 10 Mar. 15 - Human rights legal challenge threat to Scotland's plans for "through the back door" identity database, Martin Williams

Data privacy campaigners have warned of a possible legal challenge over Scottish Government plans to create a "super ID database".

John Swinney

The Open Rights Group (ORG) is concerned that the plans to open the country's NHS register to hundreds of public bodies, including HMRC could breach human rights and data protection laws.

ORG which has already taken some legal advice over the plans, argues that the Scottish Government's consultation does not provide a full picture of the implications to all Scots and that it would create a national identity database "through the back door".

It argues that the proposals appear "very similar" to the plans for a national ID system that the last Labour government tried to introduce at the UK level.

These were rejected, but the ORG says it is concerned that Scottish citizens will end up with such an ID system without any appropriate public debate...

"The consultation is so bad that the Information Commissioner for Scotland has pointed out that it may be illegal in its current form," said the ORG...

The Information Commissioner's Office has already said that the introduction of the system is at risk of breaching data protection laws.

In its submission to the consultation the ICO said: "Whilst the ICO are neither for nor against the creation of a national identity number per se, we do advocate against the creeping use of such unique identifiers to the extent that they could become the national identity number by default."...

Deputy First Minister John Swinney has accused critics of "scaremongering" about the impact of plans to expand the NHSCR which would let 120 public bodies - including police, prison, national security, visas and immigration - gain access to certain information from it.

The current NHSCR provide details of NHS numbers, surnames, dates of birth, postcodes, address, GP registrations and medical research information...

The ORG said the group may mount a legal challenge to the system once the Scottish government has published its consultation response to the plans.

"We will look closely at what the Scottish government says and whether it has taken into account all the evidence put forward," said ORG executive director Jim Killock.

An ORG spokeswoman added: "If the proposals are implemented as currently outlined in the consultation, they may also be open to a legal challenge if there are grounds that they don't comply with the Human Rights Act in protecting our right to privacy...

87.  Scottish Daily Mail, 17 Mar. 15 - SNP plans for NHS database 'are illegal', tax experts warn, Mark Howarth

THE Scottish Government plan to share health service data with HM Revenue & Customs is illegal, tax experts have warned.

Ministers want to create an ID database based on the NHS Central Register (NHSCR), which contains personal details of everyone born or registered with a GP north of the Border.

Part of the strategy is to allow the taxman access to data to help identify who should pay the new Scottish levy on income.

But in a submission to the Scottish Government's consultation on the proposal, the Chartered Institute of Taxation (ClOT),which represents 17,000 tax advisers, has warned that it could breach privacy laws .

In the submission, Moira Kelly, chairman of the ClOT's Scottish technical committee, states: 'Legislation provides that public authorities must... protect individual's data. There is an opt-out where the sharing of data is necessary in the public interest but that is a very high threshold.

'We emphasise that the threshold is one of necessity and not mere convenience. We do not think that threshold is met.'

The ClOT adds that the NHSCR does not hold enough information to establish who is liable to pay...

We accordingly do not agree that the proposed access to the NHSCR will provide sufficient benefit to justify its use.'

Opponents say the proposals risk creating ID cards by the back door...

Jim Killock of campaign body Open Rights Group said: 'The SNP seems to be acting out of fear, believing that if they don't bend over backwards for the UK's tax officials, then they will get the blame for any revenue shortfalls. Breaching everyone's privacy to protect politicians' backsides is a completely unreasonable approach.'...

A Scottish Government spokesman said: ' We have consulted and no decision has been made. Identification of Scottish taxpayers and administering the tax are matters for the UK Government and HMRC. Successful identification of Scottish taxpayers is critical to collecting the correct amount of tax for Scotland.

[Not on the Daily Mail website, but a copy of the whole article can be accessed here:]

88.  Computing, 17 Mar. 15 - Scottish government 'super database' - the privacy, security and legal fears, Sooraj Shah

Saltire flag

The Scottish National Party's (SNP) plans to create a "super database" that would capture and store data about Scottish citizens' health, and share it with other government bodies, has been criticised by privacy campaigners who believe the system could be a ploy to sneak in a national ID scheme through the back door.

Just two weeks ago, the project was dealt a blow by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), when its head of Scotland, Kevin Macdonald, raised concerns about the project's validity and whether the government had been open about its real reasons for wanting to go forward with the database...

Controversially, each citizen would be given a unique citizen reference number (UCRN). [Scottish government] Ministers want to spread the UCRN across all public sector databases, effectively linking them up...

The general consensus from lawyers, privacy campaigners and security experts is that the Scottish government needs to clarify exactly how it will use the data it is collecting and linking together...

"The general public would be concerned as this could be an incremental step into sneaking in a national ID scheme through the back door," said Rhys Thomas, a partner at law firm Jones Day."...

So what is the general public worried about?

According to Jim Killock, executive director at privacy campaign organisation Open Rights Group (ORG), linking data records could allow the Scottish government to exert a huge degree of control over its citizens.

"It could be used to narrow benefits so you're not entitled to a particular service because you're not doing enough exercise, for example. It allows you to chase people down on a microscopic level, so the question is whether [citizens] want the state to have these capabilities," he says...

"You have to ask when it is reasonable for the state to be looking into individual's lives and [citizens] have to question the relationship they want with the government. Once it can see all parts of your life, then you can't escape from it and your sense of autonomy in relation to the state is diminished, and that brings with it all kinds of problems," Killock states...

Questions also remain about the security of the data held in such a system...

[For] as Jim Cumming, principal consultant of Xceed Group says, there are issues within the NHS ..., with Lothian NHS having had nearly 800 instances of inappropriate data access in the past two years alone...

Jones Day's Thomas says the hardest thing to monitor would be incremental and gradual changes in how the database is used.

This, concurs Killock, is the biggest concern.

"Data is like any asset or commodity: you can't know what use it will be put to in the future... the civil service and government can imagine what motives they are going to use it for, but they don't know how it will be used," he says.

"You don't know who is going to get elected to a future Scottish government, we do know all governments at some point do ... misuse that power," he adds...

Despite protestations that it is not interested in launching ID cards, a population register is the first step to an identity scheme – even if actual cards are not issued. Hopefully, [deputy first minister John Swinney] will keep to his word and "listen carefully to all consultation responses"...

89.  Holyrood Magazine, 19 Mar. 15 - When it comes to civil liberties, the SNP is an anomaly, Liam Kirkaldy

What the ID database debate revealed about views on state power

surveillance camera

... Privacy is an issue that runs right to the heart of politics – as demonstrated by the strength of feeling surrounding the creation of a national identity database.

This brought the ICO back into the news, warning that using postcode information on the database "would be a shift away from the current consensual model" on collecting data, that the proposals may breach UK and EU data protection laws, and that use of a "unique identifier" – the number assigned to each individual – is the first step towards an ID card...

And while the Lib Dems' motion to force the plans into being treated as primary legislation was defeated, the party succeeded in uniting the opposition.

The SNP won the vote but it had to drag Aileen Campbell back from maternity leave to do so.

The debate can be a technical one, but it is interesting because of the questions it raises. After all, political parties can be defined by their position on civil liberties.

The Lib Dems are famously the party of individual freedom. The Labour Party and the Conservatives too can be understood by their ideas over how big, and how powerful, the state should be. Their views on the place of privacy flow from that.

But the SNP are an anomaly. The party thinks Scotland should be its own state, but belief in independence does not carry with it any hard and fast rules on what that state would look like, how big it should be, or where its power should end.

The party opposed New Labour's plan for a national identity database in 2005 and if this was a UK Government plan, it is easy to imagine nationalist politicians lining up to attack it.

The SNP can be an ideologically eclectic bunch and given that every opposition party backed Willie Rennie's motion, including the independents, it seems unlikely every SNP member is completely comfortable with the plan. So it will be interesting to see how the Government responds...

[However] if anything did go wrong with a database that size, if the information was lost or stolen, the consequences would be very serious indeed...

When it comes to handing over private information to the state, the question should always be 'why?' rather than 'why not?' Because as history has shown..., it can pay to be paranoid.

90., 30 Mar. 15 - Blog: How the SNP plans to secretly introduce ID cards, Ian Dunt

Identity card

For weeks now a row has been rumbling in Scotland about plans to introduce ID cards by the back door. Is it true? And if so, how is the SNP getting away with it?

The SNP plan is not a direct example of ID cards, but it does appear to put in place all the infrastructure necessary to create them – from a unique number allocated to citizens at birth, to information sharing about people's home address and use of public services or benefits, to the creation of a physical card itself. None of these things alone are necessarily problematic, but put them together and you have a plan which is almost identical to Labour's ID cards scheme.

The difference is that Labour's plans were at least going to be subject to a vote in parliament. The SNP's plans will not feature in primary legislation at all. There will be no debate on their implementation in Holyrood. Campaigners say even the consultation was deeply misleading...

The unique citizen reference number [UCRN] will be tagged to Scots' 'entitlement card'. This card offers concessions on public transport, allows people to access services like the local leisure centre or library, and also functions as a proof-of-age...

If the plans go through as currently envisioned, organisations such as Scottish Canals, Quality Meat Scotland, the Forestry Commission and the Drinking Water Quality Regulator would potentially have access to information about when people last went for a swim or visited their GP. Eventually the number could link up all sorts of activities, from tax returns to travel passes...

The Scottish government insists the powers are limited, but critics say the use of the data-sharing would increase once it is implemented, bringing in other organisations and including new information. With such widespread official use, the [UCRN] number would become a de-facto national identity number. If attached to the entitlement card, it would become a de-facto national ID card...

Opponents say the consultation into the plans has been highly misleading. It did not "provide a full picture of the implications of the proposals" and failed to explain the data-sharing arrangements, "making it impossible to assess their implications"...

Now the Information Commissioner's Office has stepped in, warning that the use of postcodes in the database would be a "shift away from the current consensual model" on data collection, that the proposals breach UK and EU law, and that the unique identifier number is indeed the first step on the road to ID cards. It demanded that the plans be "subject of proper debate", "be accompanied by suitable safeguards" and not "just happen by default"...

91.  Scottish Government, 1 Apr. 15 - Consultation on proposed amendments to the National Health Service Central Register [NHSCR] - Responses submitted

Scottish Government website

There were 62 non-confidential responses to this consultation. They can be accessed here:

92. Scottish Daily Express, 2 Apr. 15 - Scots say no to SNP super database, Mark Howarth

Willie Rennie

SNP plans to open up Scotland's NHS database to scores of public bodies have been dealt a blow after they were overwhelmingly rejected in a public consultation.

Civil liberties groups fear the scheme – which last month narrowly survived a Holyrood vote – would be only a small step away from an ID card system.

If the Scottish Government implements it, HMRC, the police, lawyers and even health bodies and councils south of the Border would have access to the data.

But yesterday, as responses to the plans were published, it emerged that even the health service is opposed.

NHS National Services Scotland chiefs warned ministers: "The consultation paper does not include sufficient detail... nor an assessment of the risks to privacy to support a decision."

Almost 90 per cent of respondents were opposed, including privacy watchdog the Information Commissioner, the Chartered Institute of Taxation and the Law Society of Scotland, which all warned the proposals may be illegal.

The scheme also was rejected by the British Medical Association and the Royal Colleges of both GPs, and Physicians and Surgeons.

Last night critics urged ministers to kill the scheme.

Scottish LibDem leader Willie Rennie said: "The people of Scotland have spoken and rejected the SNP's illiberal super ID database plans.

"Private individuals, health organisations and reputable trade bodies have set out with great clarity the many reasons why these proposals would put at risk our civil liberties."

Jim Killock, executive director of Open Rights Group, said: "The SNP has a chance to ditch these plans now that they've been given evidence they are dangerous and badly thought out."...

Ministers now want to 'seed' [each citizen's Unique Citizen Reference Number (UCRN)] throughout the public sector, in effect linking up a mass of databases into a single structure which could allow officials to gather detailed dossiers on individuals with ease and in secret.

The Scottish Government has said it "will consider the responses carefully and will respond in due course".

Ministers also insist they are opposed to the introduction of ID cards.

93. Scottish Daily Express - Leader, 2 Apr. 15 - Nationalists must listen

OPPOSITION to the Nationalist government's plan to create an ID card by the back door is overwhelming. Yesterday, it was revealed that 90 per cent of those who responded to a public consultation were against the scheme. Most tellingly, they include NHS National Services Scotland - the very body whose database would be opened up to allow scores of public bodies access to private information. It says the plans do not contain "sufficient detail... nor an assessment of the risks to privacy".

We already know, to our cost, how this interfering administration relishes meddling in every aspect of our lives but Nicola Sturgeon & Co should listen to Scots Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie when he says: "The people of Scotland have spoken - and they have rejected the SNP's illiberal super ID database plans."

[Not online]

94. Scottish Daily Mail, 2 Apr. 15 - NHS chiefs join attack on plans to access data, Alan Roden

Willie Rennie

HEALTH chiefs have joined the attack on SNP plans to open up Scotland's NHS database to public bodies.

As pressure grows on ministers to drop the idea, tax experts, the UK Information Commissioner and lawyers have raised concerns.

Critics fear the proposal will create a 'super ID database'.

More than 100 public bodies could be able to request access to entries on the NHS Central Register (NHSCR), including Scottish Canals, Quality Meat Scotland, Creative Scotland, solicitors and charities...

But NHS National Services Scotland, which provides strategic support services to NHS Scotland, has raised concerns over plans to increase the level of information in the NHSCR.

In its consultation response it accuses the government of failing to assess 'the risks to privacy'.

The Chartered Institute of Taxation response to the consultation states: We do not agree that the proposed access to the NHSCR will provide sufficient benefit to justify its use.'...

In response, Ken Macdonald, assistant information commissioner for Scotland and Northern Ireland, wrote: We advocate against the creeping use of such unique identifiers to the extent that they could become the national identity number by default.'...

Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie said: 'On the scale, purpose and implications of their super ID database plans, ministers must heed the calls of Scottish Liberal Democrats and scrap these plans. We cannot support any proposals which would be an ID card in all but name.'

A Scottish Government spokesman said: 'Having consulted on this issue, we are considering the contributions and will respond in due course.'

[Not online]


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