120. Scotland on Sunday, 10 Jan. 16 - Swinney urged to reveal his plans for 'super ID', Scott MacNab
Bid to expand access to NHS register should be abandoned, say campaigners
JOHN Swinney is facing calls to "break his silence" on controversial Scottish Government plans for a "super ID" database ahead of the Scottish Parliament elections in May.
Opposition parties and campaign groups fear the plans could be "kicked into the long grass" with almost a year having elapsed since a consultation closed into the proposals.
But Jim Killock, executive director of Open Rights Group said a response is "long overdue" and called on the government to ditch the plans.
Under proposed amendments to the NHS Central Register (Scotland) Regulations 2006, access to the register would be expanded to 120 public bodies and every person in Scotland would be assigned a unique reference number...
Campaigners say it could be used to keep a record of a variety of information – from whether a person has been treated for cancer to whether they have signed up for membership of Edinburgh's Royal Botanic Garden.
Liberal Democrat North East MSP, Alison McInnes, said: "It has now been 11 months since the consultation closed and John Swinney is yet to break his silence.
"These plans would change fundamentally the way that the government and public agencies access our private information and they cannot be kicked into the long grass...
Ministers insist that the NHS register has existed since the 1950s and every citizen already has a health service number. The proposed new set-up would only see a "minimum amount of data" being shared, according to its consultation...
But McInnes branded the plans "dangerous" and insisted they were opposed by privacy campaigners, human rights groups and ordinary members of the public...
Killock said the Scottish Government attempted to use a "minor consultation" to push through the plans for an identity database....
"The Scottish Government need to admit they got it wrong and ditch these plans. If they want to introduce an ID system with such far-reaching implications for privacy, it should be through primary legislation so that there is a proper opportunity to debate the risks."
A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said: "There is no such ID database planned. We are considering consultation responses and will set out the way forward in due course."
121. Edinburgh Evening News - Letters, 11 Jan. 16 - Compulsory ID cards appear in a new guise, Dr John Welford
I would normally be fully supportive of any steps taken to encourage youngsters to use our local libraries ('Primary begins new chapter by enrolling pupils at library', News, January 4). However, the latest plan to do this by Edinburgh City Council and the Scottish Government leaves me distinctly disturbed.
For this plan is a compulsory one, involving the registration of all primary school pupils and the issue to them of a new type of library card (details unspecified).
Furthermore, we are told that in due course even newly born babies are to be issued with such library cards.
Given the Scottish Government's enthusiastic espousal of its National Entitlement ID card (NEC) programme, one can only suspect that in due course this library card plan is going to be used to introduce national civil registration and NEC ID cards for all newly born children in Scotland. And it is of note that we have not had such civil registration in the UK for over 60 years. I would, therefore, urge Edinburgh council to row back on this scheme and issue the new library cards to parents on a purely voluntary basis.
This is a perfectly reasonable request, but should they fail to do this, then I would encourage any concerned parents to bypass the scheme and enrol their children for library cards only when and if they wish to.
The above letter was submitted in response to the article 'Primary begins new chapter by enrolling pupils at library':
122. The Scotsman, 23 Jan. 16 - Buses must get smarter faster says minister, Alastair Dalton
An end to fumbling for the right change for the bus could come sooner after the transport minister fired a "warning shot" to speed up the introduction of cashless smartcards.
Derek Mackay threatened to bring in new laws to force operators to offer electronic payments.
The minister wants far faster progress on smartcards, that can be used on buses, trains and ferries, to make such travel more attractive. However, they were planned as part of Scotland's national transport strategy ten years ago.
Mr Mackay said some bus operators were dragging their feet despite firm plans for smartcards on ScotRail and CalMac over the next few years. He said: "My expectation is that it would be quicker. We should now be making rapid progress.
"Connecting all bus operators will be the next big step.
"My warning shot is this - it is a clear vision of the Scottish Government. If we do not get there through partnership, we will legislate."...
Paul White, of the Confederation of Passenger Transport, which represents bus operators, said they were "absolutely committed" to expanding smart ticketing.
He said: "Smart, multi-operator bus ticketing schemes will be introduced across Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee over the next two years, building on the many smart ticketing initiatives already in place.
"These schemes will form the building blocks of the nationwide, integrated smart ticketing."
123. The Scotsman - Letters, 25 Jan. 16 - Hidden ID agenda, Dr John Welford
I do wish that the Scottish Government would stop pussy-footing around with its plans to introduce national ID cards ("Buses must get smarter faster says minister", 23 January). For it's becoming all too obvious that the plans for cashless travel smartcards will be just the next chapter in its well-disguised ambition to create a fully-integrated national ID card infrastructure.
It's now ten years since the whole ID bandwagon got started with the introduction of smart so-called 'pensioner bus passes'. However, in reality these are 'National Entitlement Cards' (NEC), just an alternative name for national ID cards. Similar NEC cards were soon being issued to school pupils, but badged as 'Young Scot Cards'. The latest and most bizarre part of the scheme will be to issue so-called 'library cards' to newly born babies. This sounds utterly crazy.
So instead of trying to hide its ID card plans behind a barrage of such smartcard initiatives, I do wish the government would come clean, and openly argue its case for ID cards before the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish people. Only then should it either abandon its scheme or set up a fully transparent national civil registration scheme, along with the issue of compulsory ID cards.
Implementing ID cards is hugely costly, but doing this deceptively is adding significantly to the price. And so it's hardly surprising that many travel companies are reluctant to co-operate with a government which has a hidden agenda and which threatens to legislate to gets its way, rather than to work in a proper partnership. There's nothing wrong in principle with producing a form of national travel card. But trying to do this while secretly issuing them as national ID cards is both deeply wrong in principle and will be hugely expensive in practice.
This letter was submitted in response to the preceding article, item 122.
124. Edinburgh Evening News - Letters, 27 Jan. 16 - Big Brother is wasting our hard-earned cash, John Welford
Edinburgh has long been regarded as the surveillance capital of Europe ('Big Brother is watching: now in HD', News, 25 January). So it is disappointing to see Edinburgh Council is proposing to extend its CCTV armory with the use of HD cameras and face and car number plate recognition facilities; spending at least £1 million at a time when there are severe spending cuts elsewhere makes little sense. For it is inevitable that serious criminals will always keep well ahead of such newly introduced "smart technologies". For example, the wearing of dark glasses and a hood will seriously hamper any attempt at facial recognition. Likewise, choosing to commit crimes in locations where there are no cameras and/or lighting is poor. Meanwhile, car number plate recognition can easily be countered merely by using a set of fake number plates.
It has been suggested that visitors to Edinburgh will feel safer. On the contrary, the response I have observed is that tourists are quite spooked by our overuse of CCTV, wondering why people here should be so very paranoid.
I would have no objection to the proportionate and targeted use of CCTV in specific locations, such as the Meadows, which has become a serious target for muggers. But widespread surveillance across the whole of the city is a step much too far. It will neither keep people safer, nor be value for money.
The above letter was submitted in response to the article 'High resolution CCTV 'as clear as home TV' coming soon to the Capital':
125. Edinburgh Evening News, 30 Jan. 16 - Lib Dems to challenge 'loss of civil liberties' under SNP
Civil liberties are being slowly eroded under the SNP Government, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie will claim today.
He will tell his party's North-East of Scotland conference that only the Lib Dems have effectively opposed the Nationalists on issues such as police stop-and-search, the abolition of corroboration and plans for an ID database.
Mr Rennie will say: "Too often we take our civil liberties for granted. The casual disregard of civil liberties by the illiberal SNP and the other parties shows the real value of strong liberal voices in the Scottish Parliament.
126. Scottish Daily Mail, 8 Feb. 16 - NHS shares our details every day, Mark Howarth
Fears over privacy and cyber crime as patients' personal details passed on 20million times
Scottish health chiefs have handed out patients' personal details almost 20million times in ten years in 'an open invitation to fraudsters'.
The NHS Central Register contains information on almost every person living in Scotland including their date of birth, address and mother's maiden name.
New figures show an average of 6,000 records are shared every day, mostly with local councils but also with medical researchers, charities and police.
The SNP now wants to allow more than 100 public bodies - including the taxman, airports and solicitors - the right to access the data.
But critics claim the figures show Scots are being left open to identity fraud and state snooping.
Edinburgh-based data privacy expert Dr John Welford said: 'Centralising so much personal information in this manner opens the door to large-scale identity theft...
Geraint Bevan of campaign group N02ID Scotland said: 'It is alarming 20million records have been shared with civil servants, in a country of only five million people.'
The NHSCR was set up in the 1950s to help keep track of patients. It has been taken over by National Records Scotland. Everyone born in Scotland or registered with a GP here is on the database and given a Unique Citizen's Reference Number (UCRN)...
A public consultation saw [a proposed future] plan criticised by the Information Commissioner, the Chartered Institute of Taxation and the Law Society of Scotland, which all warned it may be illegal...
The latest figures - obtained under Freedom of Information laws - show that, since 2006, 19.85million records have been shared across the public sector...
Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie said: 'These figures reveal data-sharing on an industrial scale. People will be shocked that the NHS central register has been accessed nearly 20million times behind closed doors.
'At this stage, we have no idea how privacy would be protected and what safeguards would be in place. It is time the SNP scrapped these dangerous plans.'...
A Scottish Government spokesman said: 'We expect privacy and data security to be key priorities for all public bodies in Scotland. All NHSCR requests are dealt with under strictly controlled arrangements to ensure privacy and the security of the data.'
[Not on the Daily Mail website, but a copy of the whole article can be accessed here:
127. Scottish Mail on Sunday, 28 Feb. 16 - Sinister school tests to spy on families, exclusive, Mark Howarth
Anger as details of home life are logged on secret database
Schoolchildren are being subjected to 'covert' psychological tests as part of the SNP's new state guardian scheme.
Every youngster in Scotland is to be subtly quizzed about their private lives and asked to complete intrusive questionnaires.
These will ask, among other things, if the child's parents make them feel special or even if their home is 'cosy'. The answers will be stored on a giant government database network and then analysed to pick out pupils for further investigation by Named Persons - the state guardians.
To which every individual child will be assigned later this year. Scottish pupils will then face the intrusive tests regularly throughout their school careers after the system goes 'live' in August.
Sample questions and possible answers are being used to train Named Persons in quizzing children. The Mail on Sunday asked social work expert Maggie Mellon to deconstruct the answers and show how they would flag up issues with children's well-being. What she found will chill every parent.
Some of the concerns raised were legitimate but others were subjective, potentially wrong or even based on prejudice. Writing in the Mail today, respected Ms Mellon concludes the scheme has 'no validity'...
Campaigners against the new system say concerned whistleblowers in parts of the country including Ayrshire, Fife and East Renfrewshire are claiming teachers are being told by training teams to 'keep parents in the dark' about the true nature of the profiling...
Simon Calvert of the No To The Named Person campaign, which is spearheading a legal challenge to the scheme, said the latest revelations were 'creepy'. He added: 'Parents are going to have to tell schools and local authorities to stop spying on their children. Psychologically manipulating youngsters so you can squeeze confidential information out of them is fundamentally wrong - but to store all this information on a giant council database is astonishingly foolhardy.
'It really is beyond time that the Scottish Government called a halt to this whole charade before they do any more damage. It's Orwellian, it's immoral and it has to stop.'...
There has already been fury across Scotland about tests for older children which ask them if they drink, smoke or commit crime and if they feel close to their parents. Named Persons must judge each youngster's well-being against a government checklist that includes indicators such as a pupil needing fillings at the dentist, being disruptive in class or failing to carry out voluntary work...
Critics say the profiling scheme goes even further than a controversial 'ContactPoint' system in England which was scrapped in 2010 following warnings it was illegal and unsafe...
Yesterday. Dr Stuart Waiton, senior sociology lecturer at Abertay University in Dundee, said: 'A major problem with the Named Person professionals is that they appear to have lost any sense of the family as an important private institution for society. Trust, loyalty and privacy in their warped eyes are transformed into secrets being hidden "behind closed doors". Once we see every child as vulnerable and every family as potentially toxic, the result is that professionals see less of a problem with interfering in the private lives of children and parents.'...
Under the Named Person scheme, every child is to be appointed a state guardian at birth to monitor their wellbeing up until the age of 18. All families will receive 11 compulsory visits to inspect their parenting skills before a child starts classes....
A Scottish Government spokesman declined to comment on the tests, saying it was down to councils to respond.
128. Edinburgh Evening News - Letters, 4 Apr. 16 - Records data breach is a serious SNP wake up call, John Welford
The fact that access to data held by National Records of Scotland has been so seriously attacked that systems have had to be closed down for a week should be a serious wakeup call to the Scottish Government ('Identity theft alarm as 'IT glitch' hits National Records', News, March 31).
Of particular concern at present is the fact that the SNP continues to tread on extremely dangerous technical ground with its proposal to use the vast NHS Central Register (or a copy) as a 'super ID database', i.e. a national population register. For the plan is for this register, once created, to be accessed over the internet by more than a hundred public bodies.
Security specialists have repeatedly warned the Scottish Government about the so-called 'honeypot effect' - of setting up such large vulnerable sets of data in one place.
This is because computer systems can never be made 100 per cent secure and criminals will always seek out the weakest points of resistance in order to get their hands on the data.
A Scottish super ID database on the internet would, therefore, present an irresistible honeypot target for cybercriminals everywhere.
The SNP government always likes to present itself as highly competent and reliable. But if it proceeds with its plans, it will be only a question of time before this gross design weakness is detected and widespread hacking ensues.
For a government that purportedly champions cyber resilience, this will be deeply embarrassing. But also in purely practical terms, what will it be recommending citizens to do when all our names, dates of birth, addresses etc. suddenly end up in the hands of criminals?
The Scottish Government has now at last been given its final warning. It should wake up and take notice before it becomes too late.
The above letter was submitted in response to the article 'Identity theft alarm as 'IT glitch' hits National Records'. This is how this news item was reported in the Scotsman:‘Ransomware’ attack hits National Records of Scotland:
129. Edinburgh Evening News - Letters, 1 July 16 - Don't hand out personal details without question, John Welford
It is most alarming how readily expert criminals are now managing to scam people of considerable amounts of their money merely by making a couple of phone calls (Crime gang target city OAPs, June 29). Clearly, everyone will need to learn to become much more vigilant about unexpected phone calls and how to spot those coming from criminals.
We will also need to be much more careful about protecting our personal information. In your article you rightly state how necessary it is "to never disclose your pin, passwords and bank details to cold callers".
But also people need to realise how vital it is never to disclose your date of birth (DoB) to a stranger unless they have a very good reason for requesting it. And this is because once someone knows your name and DoB they can be half way to stealing your identity.
Two examples. Firstly, when you make an appointment to see your doctor you will normally be asked to provide your DoB. And this is perfectly justified, for it enables your medical practice to correctly locate your medical file.
Secondly, and by contrast, Edinburgh City Council has been routinely requesting your DoB even when you're just reporting a pothole in the road. This is completely unjustified, and so you should flatly refuse to supply your DoB. Moreover, the council's DoB request flatly conflicts with the Scottish Government's Identity Management and Privacy Principles, which states that when making such a general inquiry about a service you should not need to provide any identifying information.
In the past, I have heard people claim: "If you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear". In this age of sophisticated criminal scamming and increasing cybercrime, such a sentiment is completely naive and dangerous. The wise among us will instead be constantly vigilant and protective of our privacy and personal information.
The above letter was submitted in response to the article 'Fake RBS fraud squad scams pensioners out of £300k', 29 June 16:
130. The Telegraph, 28 July 16 - Supreme Court blocks SNP's controversial 'named person' scheme, Auslan Cramb
The Scottish Government has suffered a humiliating defeat in the UK's highest court after its controversial "state guardian" scheme was ruled unlawful.
The decision by the Supreme Court blocks the planned introduction of the so-called named person service in August.
It is the first time the court has prevented a major piece of legislation passed by the Scottish Parliament from coming into force and the ruling is a serious blow for Nicola Sturgeon.
Critics claim the plan is a snooper's charter that would allow the named person - usually a head teacher or health visitor - to interfere in family life...
Campaigners opposed to the scheme told the court it would allow the named person to interfere in areas including what children watch on TV at home, their diet and even how their bedroom is decorated....
According to ministers, the legislation is needed to avoid another child abuse tragedy. But five judges at the Supreme Court ruled it was incompatible with human rights law due to proposals on sharing personal information...
The judgment emphasises the importance of article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights - on the right to a private and family life - and in a withering passage states: "The first thing that a totalitarian regime tries to do is to get to the children, to distance them from the subversive, varied influences of their families, and indoctrinate them in their rulers' view of the world. Within limits, families must be left to bring up their children in their own way."...
Campaigners welcomed the "historic" ruling. Simon Calvert, spokesman for No to Named Persons (NO2NP), which has spearheaded the public campaign against the scheme, said: "This proposed scheme was intrusive, incomprehensible and illegal...
Colin Hart, director of The Christian Institute, which co-ordinated the action, said the decision was a "devastating blow for the Scottish Government which sought to brush off all criticism of its named person scheme as scaremongering"...
The court decided the information-sharing powers were not within the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament and issued a delaying order which allows the Scottish Government [42 days] to redraft the scheme.
Campaigners took the case to the London-based court after losing legal challenges in Scotland.
131. Scottish Daily Mail, 8 Aug. 16 - Super ID database 'doomed by court decision', Mark Howarth
SNP plans for a super lD database network have been dealt a fatal blow by the Supreme Court judgment on the Named Person scheme, experts claim.
Last month, five law lords struck down ministers' proposals to assign a state guardian for every child, insisting their powers to seek out and share data were a breach of families' right to a private life.
Now it is believed the damning ruling may also kill off another project described by critics as 'Orwellian'.
In 2014, the Scottish Government sparked fury when it unveiled plans to expand the NHS Central Register (NHSCR) and use it to link up public sector files across Scotland.
The reforms would create the technical capability for officials to conduct data trawls on individuals in minute detail.
Although they were savaged in a public consultation last year, ministers have insisted the changes are still in the pipeline. But experts say the Supreme Court's intervention may have left that plan in ruins too.
Data protection consultant Tim Turner, of the 2040 Information Law blog, claims the SNP will now have to scrap both projects or go ahead with them in a neutered form.
He said: 'If they look at the Supreme Court judgment and think all they need to do is write some more specific guidance, I think the NHSCR proposals may go ahead but fail for the same reasons.
'The Scottish Government fall prey to a mindset that if they give themselves a power to do something, data protection and human rights privacy are automatically taken care of. Sometimes, they just don't think of them at all...
Mr Turner added: 'The previous UK Labour Government had two schemes - one for lD cards and one for a universal children's register, ContactPoint.
'Both foundered because of public concern and the biggest source of concern was that they were too wide and were not focused on solving specific problems. The Scottish Government may not have learned that lesson.'...
Data privacy campaigner Dr John Welford said: 'The Supreme Court ruling may prove to be a very far-reaching judgment. It makes clear that an all-encompassing "database state" does not trump the liberties of individuals and families.
'The Scottish Government should not just look again at the Named Person scheme but undertake a thorough review of all policies and strategies that risk crossing this line...
[Not online, but a copy of the whole article can be accessed here: http://www.jwelford.demon.co.uk/docs/MarkHowarth8.08.16.pdf]