The Scottish Identity Card Scandal:
Campaign News - 2015 (Jan.-Feb.)
48. HawkTalk Blog, 14 Jan. 15 - Proposals to expand Central NHS Register creates a national population register and significant data protection/privacy risks, Chris Pounder
I thought the idea of a centralised, national population register was well and truly dead? Well the Holyrood SNP Government wants to resurrect a Scottish version.
The Scottish Government's plans are outlined in a document entitled "Consultation on proposed amendments to the National Health Service Central Register (Scotland) Regulations 2006". The intention is to transform the current NHS Central Register ("NHSCR") so it can be accessed by more bodies, to increase the number of individuals recorded in the Register, and to use a Unique Citizen Reference Number ("UCRN") for each citizen.
The NHSCR can then be accessed by well over 120 Scottish public authorities (including police, prison, national security, visas and immigration) and certain publicly owned companies.
This blog identifies some key problems of the proposed approach and where consultation documentation fails to consider fundamental data protection requirements. As a result, it fails to inform the public properly about the consequences of the proposal...
I am not against attempts to improve efficiency in the public sector; in summary, I think these proposals are not the way to do it. I don't think it proper to use a service that most citizens have to use (e.g. the NHS) to collect basic details which can then be disclosed, using powers that are not fully scrutinised, to any public body...
Identity assurance: the proposed approach for delivery of electronic services differs from the approach of the Cabinet Office in London which requires no centralised identity database. The reason why the Registrar General needs a central register for identity assurance therefore needs to be explained...
The consultation documentation fails to call its proposal a "population register" but that is what it is...
49. The Scotsman, 22 Jan. 15 - 'Big Brother' fears over SNP database for millions of Scots, Scott MacNab
A NEW "super ID database" is being planned by SNP ministers which would be shared among government bodies, it has emerged.
It could be used to keep a record of information including whether a person has been treated for cancer, to if they have signed up for membership of Edinburgh's Royal Botanic Gardens.
Opposition parties have voiced "Big Brother" concerns that it is an "intrusive" tool which will increase the "over-mighty power of the state".
The Scottish Government is considering an extension of the NHS central register, which is already the "most complete and authoritative record of individuals in Scotland"...
Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: "People hate the idea of ID cards. They would be intrusive, expensive and increase the power of the over-mighty state. They were rightly scrapped in the rest of the UK. It relied on a giant identity register keeping track of all of us.
"It's a big concern the Scottish Government is building the skeleton of a national identity register in Scotland. It's one skip away from a ID card and it needs to be stopped. They are planning to take information on people using the health service and allow access to 120 other organisations."...
50. Scottish Express, 23 Jan. 15 - SNP under fire over ‘ID register’ plans, Mark Howarth
This photo was meant to reassure Scots their freedoms would be protected in an independent country.
But the image from the SNP’s white paper on the referendum has come back to haunt ministers as they try to dispel fears they are building a national ID register.
It shows the template of a computer file with a list of the personal data which the state would gather.
The information includes name, home address, car registration – and, embarrassingly, an identity card number.
It has resurfaced just days after it emerged ministers were accused of planning such a scheme “by the back door”...
The Scottish Government last night refused to comment on the photo...
Ross Anderson, a professor of Security Engineering at Cambridge University and renowned database expert, said: “This is pretty appalling, especially given the SNP’s earlier claimed opposition to ID cards...
51. scotland.openrightsgroup.org, 10 Feb. 15 - Say no to a Scottish national ID system, Open Rights Group Scotland
The Scottish Government has plans to create a national identity database and we have to stop it.
The new database would put Scottish citizens into a system like the scrapped and unpopular UK ID cards scheme — by the backdoor...
The Scottish Government has slowly been building up this scheme for the last 9 years. But in that time there's never been any serious democratic debate. And now they're running a minor consultation on the biggest step of the scheme so far. The consultation doesn't engage with the privacy issues and just asks for responses on whether their plans go far enough...
A minor consultation with no widespread debate is not the way to make a major change to Scottish citizens' privacy and their relationship with the state. Creating a national ID register was rejected by the Scottish National Party at the UK level. The bare minimum should be for the Scottish Government to introduce primary legislation so the public and MSPs can debate the nature of these changes and whether they are acceptable...
52. politics.co.uk, 10 Feb. 15 - Comment: Buried in a minor consultation - Scotland's ID cards plans, Jim Killock
You probably thought that ID Cards were dead. But in Scotland, the idea is alive and well, and the idea of giving everyone a unique identifier - and placing every citizens' name and address into a single database - has not been given up by civil servants.
The scheme is virtually indistinguishable from Labour's ID Cards, with the database being used to connect citizen's data across every Scottish government service.
In fact, elements of the scheme have been in place for some years. Citizens who use bus passes and student cards have their cards linked to a unique citizen reference number (UCRN). The registry of births is used to assign citizens their individual UCRN, while others are assigned it through the NHS. The scheme was introduced under the last Scottish Labour administration, but the new changes will take the ID scheme to a new level - and do it without serious public debate...
So far, so New Labour. The last few years ought to have helped us understand that more personal data is not a universal, one-way street to better government. The scheme has its roots in New Labour – at least the Scottish part of it – so why is the SNP government still pushing ahead?...
Trying to push through these enormous changes as a minor amendment to some NHS regulations is simply undemocratic. A full public debate is needed: and the Scottish government should explain.
53. Common Space, 10 Feb. 15 - Scottish Government's 'back door' plans for national ID register slammed, Liam O'Hare
Fears over Scottish Government plans to create a National ID register which has echoes of controversial New Labour plans under Tony Blair
The Scottish Government has been urged to rethink proposals which will lead to the creation of a National ID register.
The SNP administration has launched a limited consultation on proposals to significantly expand the NHS Central Register (NHSCR), an electronic database of everyone who is registered with a GP in Scotland...
Jim Killock, the executive director of Open Rights Group (ORG) told CommonSpace that "the changes would allow the state to see into every part of your life very easily".
Killock continued: "The big danger with this is it allows the government to link any part of your data in any part of your activity with other data from another part of your life...
Dr Geraint Bevan, co-ordinator of NO2ID Scotland, said there was a danger people could fall off the health register like thousands of Scots dropped off the electoral roll at the time of the poll tax.
"We've got one of the most comprehensive public health registers and that would be put in jeopardy by these changes. People might have motivations to avoid being on the register and if they fell off, that would have public health considerations. If this is needed for health, we should keep it solely for that purpose," Bevan told CommonSpace...
"The Scottish Government needs to rethink this and I am hopeful that they will decide to abandon these proposals."...
The consulation runs until 25 February.
54. Computing - Backbytes, 10 Feb. 15 - Scotland's government resurrects national ID card scheme
The greatest absurdity in politics is how much faith people routinely invest in political parties and politicians, only to have their hopes and expectations dashed every time...
It is no surprise, therefore, that Scotland's SNP government has proved to be even more insanely authoritarian than the Labour establishment it usurped. Now, in addition to laws that will turn every child into a state informer, it's also resurrecting old plans to introduce a national ID register, which will form the backbone, no doubt, of a forthcoming ID card scheme.
The proposals are sneakily hidden away in a minor consultation document regarding the NHS Central Register in Scotland, and have been described as indistinguishable from the UK-wide ID card plans that were killed off after the last general election.
The plan involves expanding the citizen reference number (UCRN) scheme, which is based on the registry of births and used to assess eligibility for student cards and bus passes, so that it would be available, initially, to every Scottish institution and local authority. In the process, it would link all the data that the public sector in Scotland holds on individuals and create a national identity register...
The plans will, no doubt, be good business for the usual people.
55. Huffington Post, 12 Feb. 15 - Is Scotland Really Creating a National Identity Scheme? Jim Killock
Is Scotland really creating a national identity scheme, along the lines of Labour's scheme, abandoned in 2010? Does it really contain a card system, that could be used by Scottish citizens, and will a centralised database of all Scottish residents really enable massive data sharing of citizen's data across over 100 Scottish public authorities?
Given the SNP's opposition to Labour's identity scheme, the surprising answer to all these questions is yes. I fully expect that most Scottish ministers are not
aware of the implications of the identity system their civil servants have been building since 2005.
I would guess that the parallels will not have been spelt out. Yet they have been spotted, not least by No2ID, who have been raising the issue.
When the Scottish identity scheme started, it was Labour pushing the legislation. Their intention was to provide an "Entitlement Card" that could be used by all Scottish authorities to identify people when using services such as libraries, school meals or buses. Each citizen would be assigned a Unique Citizen Reference Number (UCRN) at birth, or else, when they received their Entitlement Card. The UCRN would map each person to every service they would use. All this is now in place...
The least we need is a full public discussion, and an urgent review of the emergent Scottish Identity system. Let's call it what it is, and ask if the Scottish people want to be watched ever more closely by the state.
56. Scottish Daily Mail - Letters, 13 Feb. 15 - GPs aren't tax spies, Dr Peter Bennie, Chair, BMA Scotland
The confidentiality of medical records, and the trust this engenders, is a cornerstone of the doctor-patient relationship.
Sharing confidential health information with the government for the identification of income tax payers (Mail) would seriously undermine this trust with the result that patients may feel reluctant to seek medical help from their doctor.
Given that there is such a strong public interest in maintaining patients' trust in a confidential health service, the Scottish Government must consider other means, outside of the health service, to identify tax payers.
57. Sunday Herald - Comment, 15 Feb. 15 - We must beware the erosion of our civil liberties, Iain Macwhirter
"CONSENSUAL" stop and search; gun totin' polis appearing on Scottish streets; criminalisation of "offensive" songs at football matches, "super" identity cards.
You could be forgiven for thinking that Scotland is turning ever so slowly into a police state...
The Scottish Liberal Democrats have been fighting a lone battle against the erosion of civil liberties by the police and the Scottish Government. They get precious little reward for it, but we should be glad that someone still cares about this stuff.
The LibDems' latest campaign is against the setting up of what appears to be an electronic identity database of precisely the kind that was rejected by the Scottish Parliament in 2010 when Tony Blair was pressing for the introduction of identity cards. We don't want Police Scotland turning into Big Brother.
Politicians need to be saved from themselves by a vigilant public and a robust parliamentary opposition. Unfortunately in a Scottish Parliament in which the SNP dominate the chamber and committees, and there is no revising chamber, there is a problem of holding the executive to account...
[Nicola Sturgeon] needs to curb the enthusiasm of her ministers for banning stuff and trying to regulate our personal space... The road to hell is paved with good intentions, and that applies in Scotland as well as Westminster.
58. Scotsman, 20 Feb. 15 - John Swinney denies plans for super ID database, Scott MacNab
Deputy First Minister John Swinney has come under fire over the prospect of ID cards and a super ID database being introduced in Scotland.
Campaigners have hit out at proposals to extend the NHS central database across public bodies, with access secured through a citizens' reference number.
Opposition parties have voiced "Big Brother" concerns that it represents excessive state interference in the lives of citizens.
But Mr Swinney told MSPs yesterday: "The government is opposed to ID cards and does not propose to introduce any new national database."
The changes would result in "limited additional verification" and data sharing from the register among public bodies. But this will include HMRC for tax purposes, he admitted...
But Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie said the scheme mirrored the last UK Labour government's aborted ID card scheme.
"We're now seeing a proposal for a system which will give every citizen a unique reference number linked to a central database, linked to a card scheme, sharing information across government and controlling access to public services," he said...
The Open Rights Group digital campaign body said that Mr Swinney had failed to address key concerns over the change.
Executive director Jim Killock said last night: "The minister claims that they are not creating a new database but they are converting the NHS database into a national identity register.
"He did not explain why there is a need to create a unique identifier to be used across government databases. This is the crucial question that the Scottish Government must answer."
59. The National, 20 Feb. 15 - ID cards in any guise must be opposed, Patrick Harvie
... The original name for ID cards was "entitlement cards", presumably to make them seem more acceptable to the public. Entitlement cards are alive and well, and anyone who's ever been on a bus in Scotland will have seen them. Though they're principally used for concessionary travel, they are also used for proof of age and to access some local government services. There has always been a view from within government, regardless of party, that the sooner the whole population is allocated a card, the better.
But there's no database system behind them, no government file kept on us all turning us into numbers rather than people, right?
Wrong. The NHS Central Register is the closest thing Scotland has to an ID Database, and changes which are in the pipeline now will remove many of the remaining differences.
Every citizen will have a 'Unique Citizen Reference Number', which is held on the Central Register and linked to the Entitlement Card system. Your entry on the Central Register will become the single most important file the Scottish Government holds on you, and the information on it will be shared across a wide range of departments and agencies. Since some of the public services involved, and in particular their IT functions, are outsourced the private sector will also have access.
So what's the difference between a National Identity Register and a Central Register? What's the difference between an Identity Registration Number and a Unique Citizen Reference Number? What's the difference between an Entitlement Card and an ID Card? The answer may be little more than presentation.
The SNP maintains its position of opposing Identity Cards. That's very welcome, but it doesn't justify building a similar system and just calling it something different. They also say they're not creating a new database. That's true, but using an existing database for new purposes could be just as risky. The threats to our data security, our privacy and ultimately to our civil liberties will be just the same.
The National Records of Scotland, which is in charge of the [Scottish Government] consultation, is a non-ministerial government department. Perhaps it's because of their non-ministerial nature that there has been so little debate about the politics of this scheme. It's important that we examine this issue in public, and hold the proposed system under scrutiny. It's welcome therefore that the Open Rights Group and NO2ID are campaigning actively before the consultation closes on February 25th...
60. Sunday Post, 22 Feb. 15 - Plans for mass access to NHS database slammed
Campaigners who fought off Labour's plan to roll out ID cards have hit out at controversial plans to open up Scotland's NHS database to scores of public bodies.
The Scottish Government wants to give more than 100 public bodies, including the tax authorities, solicitors and social landlords, access to entries on a NHS database of people registered with GPs...
In its response to the Scottish Government consultation, the [NO2ID Scotland] group stated: "These proposals will be widely seen to echo the ill-fated National Identity Register that was opposed repeatedly by the Scottish parliament.
"By opening up the NHS central register to HMRC and Revenue Scotland, the public health benefits of a comprehensive NHS register are put at risk."
Meanwhile, Scottish Labour has called for the plan to be axed...
61. Sunday Mail, 22 Feb. 15 - NHS: Campaigners attack plans to share patients' personal data with taxman, Mark Aitken
SCOTTISH ministers are considering opening up an electronic database
of people registered with a GP to 120 public bodies, including HM Revenue and Customs....
Critics fear it is a small step away from the introduction of identity cards and have urged the SNP Government to abandon the plan.
They include Lib Dem peer Shirley Williams, who campaigned against the previous Labour government's introduction of ID cards and said she would rather go to jail than carry one.
Baroness Williams told the Sunday Mail: "We must be careful not to sleepwalk into authoritarianism and ensure that the public understands the ramifications, including the cost."...
Bella Sankey, director of policy for Liberty, said: "The dangers of allowing information to flow between health and tax agencies are not only obvious but chilling. Where is the justification for sharing this personal data?"
Scottish ministers are consulting on plans to open up the NHS electronic database of everyone born in Scotland and registered with a GP north of the Border...
James Baker, campaigns manager for privacy campaign group NO2ID, said: "If the Scottish Government wants to make this big change, it should make it a law so MSPs can debate it in Parliament.
"If it wants to create a surveillance society, it should do it by law rather than through a sneaky change in regulations."
Labour's Shadow Scottish Secretary Margaret Curran said: "These are the biggest changes to the income tax regime in Scotland that we have ever seen, but only now are they taking action to identify taxpayers.
"The Scottish Government need to do the right thing and ditch these proposals."
Deputy First Minister John Swinney has insisted that the SNP remain opposed to ID cards...
62. STV News, 22 Feb. 15 - Plans to share NHS data with tax agency 'risk breaking down trust'
Labour has called for the Scottish Government to drop plans to share data from NHS records with the tax collection agency HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).
Shadow Scottish secretary Margaret Curran MP said the proposals risk "breaking down the trust" between patients and the health service.
The SNP administration said no medical records would be shared.
It is consulting on proposed changes to the NHS central register which would allow certain data, including names, dates of birth, postcodes and gender, to be passed on to public bodies including HMRC.
The Government says the changes will help identify Scottish taxpayers so that the new Scottish rate of income tax can be collected correctly...
Labour has submitted a response to the consultation, which closes on Wednesday, opposing the plans.
Ms Curran said: "In recent weeks, the list of organisations opposing these changes has grown. From Scotland's doctors to civil liberties organisations, there is now agreement that the SNP and Tory Governments need to ditch these proposals.
"As the leader of Scotland's doctors warned, this risks breaking down the trust that exists between patients and Scotland's NHS. The SNP should not be handing our NHS data to the tax man...
The changes will help trace people such as children who are missing in the education system and foreigners who received NHS treatment in Scotland and left the country with unpaid bills, according to the Government...
A spokesman said: "There are no proposals to share medical records and any suggestion of that is simply wrong. Identification of Scottish taxpayers and administering the tax are matters for the UK Government and HMRC..."
63. The National - Letters, 25 Feb. 15, Dr John Welford, Edinburgh Coordinator, NO2ID
Submitted in response to letter 'We should welcome ID card system', Scott Morrison, 23 Feb.
I was most surprised to find Scott Morrison so happy with the idea of having an ID card and speaking so dismissively of "some vague and outdated notion of privacy" (We should welcome ID card system, February 23). And this within the context of the UK having become the surveillance capital of Europe.
Privacy clearly means different things to different people. But I would imagine that very few of us would be happy if the Government were to install compulsory CCTV cameras in every room of our houses, as in George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty Four. And most people I meet believe it is deeply wrong for GCHQ and the US National Security Agency to be routinely hoovering up all our phone and internet communications, as well as details of every webpage we access. And all without proper government scrutiny and accountability.
With regard to ID cards, I wouldn't particularly mind having an ID card based on those issued in Germany. These are carefully designed to be privacy-friendly, and crucially they do not rely on a national population register. Germany's recent history has taught them important lessons about what can happen if such mechanisms are installed.
Unfortunately, what is being planned for Scotland is an ID card system at the extreme pole from Germany. One in which there is a National Identity Register, providing ready access to everything about us. What is more, this privacy-hostile system has been developed over several years and without proper Scottish Parliamentary scrutiny and approval. Indeed, most MSPs don't appear to have much clue about it.
It is vital therefore that the current campaign against this intrusive Scottish ID card system should be stepped up and supported. And it's absolutely imperative that the system be abolished as soon as possible.
64. BBC Newsnight Scotland, 25 February 15, discussion item on the Scottish Government's NHSCR proposals
This ten minute item was introduced and chaired by Sarah Smith. She began by saying: "The Scottish Government is coming under pressure to drop plans for a new ID database which would allow more than 100 public bodies access to our private data."
Two critics of the scheme, Garry Marshall (Technology Journalist) and Geraint Bevan (NO2ID Scotland) described some of the problems: data inaccuracy and the resulting problems for the individual, people being compelled to be on the register merely by visiting a doctor, mission creep and the Scottish Government's ignoring of expert advice.
This was followed by a studio discussion, with Bob Doris, SNP MSP and member of the Government's Health Committee and Willie Rennie, the Scottish Liberal Democrat Leader.
65. Guardian, 25 February 15, Scottish plans for central identity database spark privacy criticism, Severin Carrell
Campaigners alarmed after ministers quietly publish plans they say echo doomed ID card scheme
Privacy and civil rights campaigners have urged the Scottish government to drop plans for a new identity database which could allow public bodies, including tax authorities, to share every adult's private data.
Scottish ministers have been accused of introducing a central database by stealth after civil servants quietly published plans to expand an NHS register to cover all residents and share access with more than 100 public bodies, including HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).
Public consultation on the proposal, which has faced intense opposition in the Scottish parliament after the scale and reach of the project came to light, ended on 25 February.
Critics claim the plans for the wholesale use in Scotland of the unique citizen reference number (UCRN) were extremely similar to the national ID card proposals by the UK Labour government, which were dropped on privacy and civil rights grounds after the coalition took office in 2010...
Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group (ORG), said the central database could allow officials in different agencies to access personal data and allow data mining and profiling in future.
The ORG said it was striking that the proposals were not being treated as primary legislation and debated fully in the Scottish parliament...
After tabling a motion opposing the plans in Holyrood, Willie Rennie, the Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, said it was still unclear how much the database would cost or how it would be policed.
"Anyone with a liberal bone in their body will find the SNP's super ID database plans worrying," he said. "Expanding access to the central register to 120 public bodies and assigning each person with a unique reference number would be intrusive, costly and would increase the power of the over-mighty state"...
[A Scottish government] spokeswoman said] "We have an unequivocal commitment to protecting and respecting individuals' privacy and will respond to the consultation adhering to that"...
66. Scottish Parliament, 26 February 15, Motion: Stop the Super ID Database
Motion S4M-12447: Willie Rennie, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Date Lodged: 26/02/2015
Stop the Super ID Database
That the Parliament notes with concern the Scottish Government's consultation on amendments to the National Health Service Central Register (Scotland) Regulations 2006; understands with alarm that it plans to turn the register into a national identification database that up to 120 different organisations will be able to use to identify and trace people; believes that such a database would be at great risk of abuse; understands that it is planned that every person would be assigned a unique "citizen reference number" to allow public bodies to track them; considers that this is only one step away from introducing ID cards; is perturbed with reports that the Scottish Government has failed to link the proposals to any plans for keeping people's information secure, or the costs or timescales for establishing the database; is astonished to learn that it has not published a privacy impact assessment of the proposals; understands that it is seeking to make the changes with the minimum of consultation, and calls on the Scottish Government to abandon these proposals with immediate effect before any further public funding is spent on the scheme.
Supported by: Alison McInnes, Jim Hume, Neil Findlay, Jean Urquhart, Liam McArthur, Cara Hilton
67. Scottish Parliament, 27 February 15, Amendment to Motion: Stop the Super ID Database
Motion S4M-12447.1: Bob Doris, Glasgow, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 27/02/2015
Stop the Super ID Database
As an amendment to motion S4M-12447 in the name of Willie Rennie (Stop the Super ID Database), leave out from "notes" to end and insert "considers that the Scottish Government's consultation on potential amendments to the National Health Service Central Register (Scotland) Regulations 2006 sets out to improve the quality of data held in the NHS Central Register, assist in the tracing of certain people, such as overseas visitors who are eligible to pay for NHS treatment, and children missing from the education system, and ensure that, when providing public services, public bodies are able to correctly identify the person they are dealing with in a safe and controlled manner; understands that local authorities and NHS boards have been able to use the unique citizen reference numbers (UCRN) since 2006 and that the UCRN may only be used for matching and verifying key data and does not transfer any personal information; recognises that the Scottish Government and Scottish public bodies already operate under strict rules on the use of data to ensure privacy, and considers that there are no proposals to change this; acknowledges that the amendments do not include any proposals for ID cards or for the sharing of medical records, nor do they involve the creation of a single public sector record, and understands that the Scottish Government will consider the responses to the consultation."
Supported by: John Mason, Kenneth Gibson, Kevin Stewart, Rob Gibson, Mike MacKenzie, Adam Ingram