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Opposition to ID cards

15/02/2009

Minister for Community Safety Fergus Ewing has reiterated the Scottish Government's complete opposition to UK Government proposals for a National Identity Scheme.

The Minister made his views clear in a response to a consultation by the Westminster Government on their ID cards secondary legislation.

Commenting on the scheme, Fergus Ewing said:

"The Scottish Government continues to be completely opposed to the National Identity Scheme, and the Scottish Parliament recently supported a call for the UK Government to cancel its plans for the National Identity Scheme.

"Given the current financial climate, 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 its costly National Identity Scheme.

"The overall costs of this scheme could be £4.8bn, or £5.11bn if costs associated with foreign nationals are included. This money could and should be used to pay for much more worthy causes like more teachers, nurses or police officers or more schools and hospitals.

"The costs of this scheme are not only to be borne indirectly by the tax payer. All citizens, including Scots, will be expected to fork out for a card and to enrol on the national identity register when this becomes compulsory in 2012.

"The initial application fee has been fixed at £30 and that is supposedly a cut-price offer to entice citizens to get one before they become compulsory. How much they will cost from 2012 is anyone's guess.

"On top of the statutory fee, citizens will have to pay to enrol their biometric data, fingerprints and facial image, using as yet unspecified 'marketplace' organisations. This is likely to double the cost, if not more.

"On top of that, there is little tangible evidence to suggest ID cards will deliver any of the benefits Westminster claim: it is far from certain they will do anything to safeguard against crime and terrorism, and there are real concerns that the cards and the identity database could increase the risk of fraud, not reduce it.

"Although ID cards are a reserved issue, it is the case that every person in Scotland will be affected. Only late last year, the Scottish Parliament urged the UK Government to cancel its plans for the National Identity Scheme.

"Given the current difficult financial climate, the UK Government should have better uses for the vast sums of money being spent on this Scheme and ditch this costly, ill-conceived scheme."

The overall costs of the National Identity Scheme are as follows: latest official estimates are £4.8 billion, or £5.11 billion if costs associated with foreign nationals are included. Of these, £1.2 billion are costs which are specific to the introduction of ID cards.

The Home Office Identity Cards Act Secondary Legislation consultation contains the regulations, orders and a code of practice that will need to be put in place before the first ID cards can be issued under the Identity Cards Act, starting in the second half of 2009. This is when airside workers in some airports will be required to have ID cards and register on the National Identity Register, the national database underpinning the scheme.

The Scottish Government responded to the consultation, restating its principled opposition to the scheme as well as seeking clarification on the following issues:

  • the lawfulness of the National Identity Register in light of the S v Marper decision by the European Court of Human Rights that storing biometric data of persons investigated but not convicted of crimes breached their right to respect for private and family life (Article 8, Human Right Act)
  • the current wording of the draft secondary legislation may suggest unlawful sub-delegation to a designated authority of the duty to ensure that an ID card has been issued
  • if Scottish registration information is used for the purpose of verifying the information on the National Identity Register, the secondary legislation should state that this should be done using section 9 powers of the Identity Cards Act 2006.