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

Scottish ID Card

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95. The Scottish Sun, 2 Apr. 15 - Database bid gets the boot

A bid by ministers to create an ID database of Scots' personal details has been snubbed by the public.

Fewer than one in 10 who took part in the consultation on Scottish Government plans to share NHS information with the police, taxman and public bodies backed the move.

The Open Right's Group's Jim Killock said: "They're badly thought out."

[Not online]

96. Bright Green, 3 Apr. 15 - Scotland is creating a national identity register, and it should be stopped, Geraint Bevan

Police fingerprinting arrangements

Thirteen years ago David Blunkett announced proposals that would set in motion the creation of a National Identity Register; a database designed to catalogue the population and allow indiscriminate sharing of personal data between government departments and agencies.

The programme was beset by technical problems, condemned repeatedly by the Scottish Parliament, and ultimately proved to be highly unpopular at the time of its abolition in 2010.

So why are Scottish ministers, who vehemently opposed those proposals at the time, seeking to create a Scottish Identity Register today?...

Why, indeed, would the Scottish Government want to share personal data from the National Health Service Central Register (NHSCR) with [public] organisations such as The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Garden, Quality Meat Scotland, VisitScotland or Creative Scotland, amongst 100 other organisations?

Arguments that were well rehearsed at the time Labour sought to introduce its National Identity Register, such as the need for victims of domestic abuse to ensure that former partners do not get access to their current addresses, apply just as much to the Scottish Government's current proposals. Surely the SNP leadership cannot be so delusional to believe that this is the kind of policy that Yes activists were campaigning for last autumn...

Responding to a government consultation on the proposals ...the Information Commissioner's Office notes that the proposals would be a "shift away from the current consensual model" and diplomatically recommends that "this is an area that would certainly benefit from the more detailed analysis of a PIA" (Privacy Impact Assessment).

Beyond mere ineffectiveness and lack of justification, the proposals have attracted criticism from experts in health and social care. The British Medical Association cautions that extending access to the NHSCR could deter individuals from registering with GPs and undermine trust. A similar point is made by the Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland:

"There is a danger that this proposal to expand the sharing of data within the NHSCR to cover such a broad, and for many people who use support and services unfamiliar, audience could compromise their relationship with the NHS and lead to a greater fear of disclosure of information..."

At a time when the Prime Minister has recently proposed that benefits should be withdrawn from the obese, from alcoholics and from those with treatable drug dependencies, the idea of joining tax records to NHS records should cause a shiver of fear in progressives throughout Scotland...

The Scottish Government has got these proposals badly wrong. They should be killed off immediately.

97. Government Computing, 8 Apr. 15 - Scotland mulls expanding devolved ID assurance solution, Neil Merrett

Holyrood aims to extend use of a national ID assurance service to central government bodies to meet what it claims is a preference for a public sector-managed solution
The Scottish government is considering rolling out its 'myaccount' identity assurance tool to central authorities in the country in order to allow individuals to securely access online services provided by a wider number of public sector organisations.

After launching myaccount last year to provide an easy sign-in for certain local authority and health services, the Scottish government said it was looking to amend regulations that will allow the tool to be adopted by "all organisations delivering devolved public services"...

This is a direct contrast to the UK government policy on ID assurance, where the Government Digital Service (GDS) is working on rolling out its GOV.UK Verify platform across the majority of its online services over the next 12 months. Verify is designed to allow a user to select one of several accredited companies to perform a check on their identity.

This will replace the need for a single government database to perform identity checks, according to the Cabinet Office...

"The Scottish government considers that the people of Scotland will prefer a public sector, not-for-profit body to be responsible for myaccount..."

Scotland claims that the service has been designed to maintain privacy by ensuring it fully aligns with its own Identity Management and Privacy Principles...

However, the consideration process has coincided with a much wider debate over the use and sharing of personal data in Scotland.

Just last month, Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) came under criticism from privacy and civil rights groups over the decision to undertake full scrutiny of plans to allow over 100 public bodies to access data through a unique NHS number provided to patients in the country.

Critics of the plan have accused of authorities of trying to introduce ID cards by stealth through proposals such as allowing organisations like HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to view certain data held on a NHS Central Register (NHSCR)...

Central databases and data protection have proved contentious for public authorities across the UK.

Late last year, the UK government's Identity Assurance Programme head Janet Hughes told Government Computing that GOV.UK Verify had not been devised as an alternative to abandoned plans to introduce a national identity card. However, Hughes noted that the development of the ID assurance platform did address some related concerns concerning a UK database.

"It is not a policy decision that was going to be taken in this country to have an identity card or a database, so that just simply is not a thing that's available, so there is no value in considering from our point of view whether that would that have been easier or not," she said.

"It's not something we have ever considered. It just isn't what any of the main political parties want to have as their policy. [GOV.UK Verify] is what you do when you don't have that [system], in order to solve the problem of identity."

98. Scottish Daily Mail, 12 May 15 - Now it's time for the SNP to stop backslapping and start running the country properly, Graham Grant

FOR the past eight years, the Nationalists' tenure at Holyrood has been almost entirely consumed with the fight for independence. There is little doubt this obsession with constitutional politics will dominate the rest of the SNP's parliamentary term.

The party is entitled to savour the triumph of its extraordinary electoral gains last week - but, in a year's time, it will be judged on its performance in government.

Yet while its crusade for independence continues - with the threat of another referendum on the horizon - the SNP has neglected a host of serious issues that affect hundreds of thousands of ordinary families.

Here are just a few of them:...

NHS DATABASE: Another assault on civil liberties has emerged in the form of plans to open up Scotland's NHS database to public bodies - which critics warn will pave the way to a backdoor ID card scheme.

If Scottish ministers give the go-ahead, public bodies able to request access to the NHS Central Register (NHSCR) will include Scottish Canals. Quality Meat Scotland, the Forestry Commission, the Drinking Water Quality Regulator and national museums, galleries and libraries.

Everyone born north of the Border or registered with a GP here has a Unique Citizen Reference Number (UCRN) and a range of personal details stored on the NHSCR.

Now ministers want to spread the UCRN across all public sector databases - in effect, linking them up.

As pressure grows on ministers to drop the idea, tax experts, the UK Information Commissioner and lawyers have all raised concerns - the SNP should belatedly pay heed to their warnings...

[Not online]

99. Scottish Sunday Express, 14 June 15 - ID card for every child in Scotland, Ben Borland

ID card and keyboard

THE SNP is to create a £12million database containing medical details about every child in Scotland, with officials admitting the trove of information could be stored abroad.

It will work alongside the controversial Named Person scheme, allowing health workers to "monitor" youngsters at the click of a button and flagging up parents who refuse vaccinations.

The network will join with another upgraded NHS database containing the medical records of everybody north of the Border, known as the Community Health Index (CHI).

Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie called for a parliamentary debate on the plans, saying they would "fuel concerns" Scotland is moving closer to ID cards.

Ten-year contracts for both projects have been put out to tender by the Scottish Government, with a target start date of August 2016 and a total cost of up to £32million.

Ministers were accused of "jumping the gun" as the so-called super-ID database, or the NHS Central Register, is still awaiting a parliamentary review...

Mr Rennie said: "The emergence of this new children's database, combined with plans for the super ID database, will fuel concerns that we are moving closer towards ID cards..."

Ross Anderson, chair of the Foundation for Information Policy Research, drew comparisons with Tony Blair's controversial Contactpoint, a database of every child in England.

Deemed "unsafe and illegal" before it was axed in 2010, Contactpoint also required consent for sensitive details to be stored. Mr Anderson said: "There are many reasons why trying to centralise everything is a bad idea, and it's not just about privacy and human rights."

"There are very serious safety issues; if GPs no longer control their own records but have to use a shared record to which arbitrary stuff can be added by social workers, probation officers and others with quite different training, culture and incentives, things become rapidly unworkable."

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: "This is not an expansion but an upgrade of existing databases, some of which are 25 years old and which have become expensive to maintain..."

100. The Scottish Parliament, 23 June 15 - Question from Patrick Harvie

Question S4W-26058: Patric Harvie, Glasgow, Scottish Green Party, Date Lodged: 10/06/2015
To ask the Scottish Government when it will publish an analysis of the responses to the consultation on the proposed amendments to the National Health Service Central Register (Scotland) Regulations 2006, and whether it plans to implement the proposed amendments.

Answered by John Swinney (23/06/2015):
The Scottish Government is currently considering the points raised in the consultation responses and will publish an analysis of these responses shortly.

Current Status: Answered by John Swinney on 23/06/2015

101. The Herald, 4 July 15 - Tim Farron says SNP 'doing the worst and darkest things that people suspect nationalists to be in favour of', Kate Devlin

Tim Farron

Mr Farron described the party's attitude to civil liberties as "terrifying"...

[He said:] "My take on the SNP is that they are avowedly centre-left and extremely authoritarian."

In an interview with The Herald, Mr Farron accused the party of politicising the police and hit out at a controversial move by Edinburg's SNP-Labour council to beef up city-wide CCTV surveillance...

Mr Farron is seen by some as the favourite to succeed Nick Clegg, who resigned in the wake of the LibDems disastrous General Election result...

Mr Farron said if he won his party would vigorously challenge the SNP on civil liberties...

He added: "There is a sense which nationalism which talks about a sense of liberation from the yoke of Westminster and freedom and progress actually ends up becoming a beast, nastier even than the one they were trying to slay...

He added that the SNP had "centralised and politicised the police in a way that makes Theresa May look like a Liberal".

SNP plans for a "super ID" national database made Tony Blair look a Liberal in comparison, he added...

An SNP spokesman said: "Tim Farron sounds like a small boy saying rude words to attract attention from grown ups..."

102. Scottish Sunday Express, 19 July 15 - SNP put under pressure over ID conflict claims, Mark Howarth

Prof Graeme Laurie portrait

ONE of the architects of the SNP's super-ID database network is leading a £1million project to help the drugs industry gain greater access to Scots' health-records.

Professor Graeme Laurie has overseen plans to expand the NHS Central Register (NHSCR), which have been opposed by doctors, tax experts and privacy campaigners...

During the Edinburgh University academic's time on the NHSCR Governance Board, the database has begun to hoard reams of personal information about nearly every citizen in Scotland...

Geraint Bevan, of campaign group NO2ID, said: "It is worrying to learn the Scottish Government's ill-advised attempts to expand the uses of the NHSCR may have been influenced by commercial interests. For the sake of transparency, ministers must investigate what role these interests may have played in loosening governance arrangements for protection of medical data in Scotland."

Everyone born in Scotland or registered with a GP here is on the database and has a Unique Citizen's Reference Number (UCRN).

It also now includes date of birth, mother's maiden name, address and military service...

[Medical researchers] are now entitled to all information on the database as long as they gain permission from the health service's Privacy Advisory Committee - of which Prof Laurie was chairman until May 2013. Last December ministers proposed the controversial expansion of the NHSCR, unveiling plans to "seed" the UCRN right across public sector databases, in effect linking them into a single structure...

[Prof Laurie] said: "I do not believe there is any conflict of interest arising from the Wellcome Trust project."

[Not on the Sunday Express website, but a copy of the whole article can be accessed here: Howarth 19.07.15.pdf]

103. The National - Letters, 23 July 15 - Authoritarian state hidden in a bus pass, Dr John Welford

The SNP's knee-jerk response to Tim Farron's comments at the weekend was wholly disparaging (LibDems' new leader dismissed as ridiculous after claiming Scotland is an authoritarian state, The National, July 20). This was unfortunate, as I do come across many people who do express deep concerns about growing signs of authoritarianism coming from the Scottish Government.

Certainly the main issue that concerns me, and it was one referred to by Farron, is the SNP's plans for creating a "super ID" national database. This project, first introduced by Scottish Labour in 2006 brought in the Scottish National Entitlement Card. This was in the deceptive form of the harmless-looking free pensioner bus pass. But nine years on, this card is now clearly a slow burn "smart" identity card, similar to what Tony Blair was hoping to impose throughout the UK - but failed.

Of course, our SNP Government has always claimed to be totally opposed to such ID cards, so why did it not promptly abolish them when coming into power in 2007? I have never received a clear, honest answer to this question.

Indeed, far from abolishing the scheme, the government is now stepping it up.  So earlier this year it carried out a public consultation, whose clear aim is to enable it to create a Scottish National Identity Register, although it has been very careful not to use this term.  So in essence it wants to hoover up all our personal identifying information from the NHS's vast Central Register (NHSCR), and use this as the basis for the National Identity Register.

So this sophisticated ID national database scheme, which has never been properly debated and approved by the Scottish Parliament, is progressing, with the population at large left in total ignorance and never consulted about it. This certainly bears all the hallmarks of authoritarianism to me.

104. Edinburgh Evening News - Letters, 25 July 15 - National database is a worrying Holyrood plan, Dr John Welford

Tim Farron

[The contents of this letter are very similar to those of the preceding letter (item 103).]

AT the weekend, Tim Farron claimed that the SNP government was responsible for "an almost Orwellian, big brother, authoritarianism" (SNP 'attacking civil liberties' claims new Lib Dem leader, July 20).

In his response, SNP MP Drew Hendry was most dismissive, saying that Farron was "out of touch" and that he had made "silly comments".

However, this response seems remarkably out of touch itself, for these days I'm increasingly aware that many people do have serious concerns about growing signs of authoritarianism coming from the Scottish Government.

Certainly the main issue that concerns me, and it was one referred to by Farron, is the SNP's plans for creating a 'super ID' national database...

So this sophisticated ID national database scheme, which has never been properly debated and approved by the Scottish Parliament, continues to progress, with the population at large left in total ignorance and never consulted about it.

This certainly bears all the hallmarks of authoritarianism to me.

105. Edinburgh Evening News - Letters, 3 Aug. 15 - Council is overstepping the mark by asking for ID, Dr John Welford

overfull waste bins

I wholeheartedly agree with your anonymous correspondent's complaint about being required to submit his/her date of birth when phoning Edinburgh council about a waste bin problem (Letters, July 29). For this requirement flatly conflicts with the Scottish Government's own Identity Management and Privacy Principles, Version 2.0, October 2014.

The very first principle, on page five and entitled Only identify when necessary, states: "People should not be asked to prove who they are unless it is necessary. A person making a general inquiry about a service should not need to provide any identifying information." Following this, the second principle is entitled: Ask for as little information as possible.

On both of these counts, Edinburgh council is clearly overstepping the mark by a mile. Where someone is phoning to report on two over-full communal bins, all the council needs to know is the location of the two bins. The identification of the caller is completely superfluous.

As a NO2ID campaigner, my advice to people is to never submit your date of birth to anyone unless they have a very good reason for having it. The easiest way to steal somebody's identity is to first get hold of their name and date of birth.

I trust that Edinburgh council will now respond to my letter, stating that they will henceforth stop routinely asking for a caller's date of birth. And in the unusual circumstances of this information being essential, they should be required to explain unambiguously the reason why.

The letter which was being responded to, entitled 'Why is date of birth needed for bin report?', can be found part way down this page: