Scotland’s Minister for Community Safety Fergus Ewing has written an open letter * to new Home Secretary Alan Johnson to remind him of the Scottish Government’s opposition to the National Identity Scheme:
“Given the current financial climate, I believe the UK Government should have better uses for the vast sums of money being spent on this scheme which presents an unacceptable threat to citizens’ privacy and civil liberties, with little tangible evidence to suggest it will do anything to safeguard against crime and terrorism.
“In the midst of a deep recession, with more job losses announced nearly every day, it simply beggars belief that the UK Government is pressing ahead with this costly scheme.”
The Scottish Government has on a number of occasions made it clear that it will not make access to devolved public services dependent upon an individual registering for, or carrying, an ID Card – in other words that the only uses for an ID Card north of the border will be those that have been legally mandated by Westminster.
That’s not to say that the Scottish Government are luddites about ID issues, quite the opposite in fact. Their identity panel has worked to develop a series of common binding principles across all public authorities to ensure that any system that requires identification or authentication technologies complies with a set of rules governing proportionality, interoperability and privacy. Scotland also has a number of programmes in place to facilitate citizen entitlement and public services without the provision of large centralised public databases, and the implications of these were explored in EPG’s stakeholder engagement report on behalf of the Identity and Passport Service.
It would be good to see the lessons being learned in Scotland replicated across the rest of the UK, rather than being rejected by the government. In the meantime, Scotland appears to be well on the way to creating a much more balanced environment for ID technologies than the rest of the UK.
* The server appeared to be down at the time of writing