Minister for community safety Fergus Ewing has written to the new UK home secretary Alan Johnson asking for the scheme to be cancelled.
He has disputed claims by UK immigration minister Phil Woolas that the scheme would bring economic benefits to the UK, raising doubts about the figures quoted by the government.
Ewing said in the letter: “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.”
Ewing said the assumptions behind Woolas’s claims — that the card would produce £6bn net economic benefit to the UK — are too uncertain over the relevant 30 year period, and that the argument that 70% of the expenditure is necessary for biometric passports is a “fallacy”.
“The UK government chose to commit to the EU standard biometric passports from 2012,” Ewing said. “They could have waited for international standards and technology solutions to emerge and to have collaborated and shared costs on that technology infrastructure.
“The UK government taking the lead in this has resulted in unnecessary up front expenditure on such things as research and development.”
In response, a spokesperson for the Identity and Passport Service said: “The home secretary has made clear that the government remains fully committed to bringing forward measures to protect people’s identity that have widespread public support.
“He has made it clear that ID cards are a manifesto commitment and that legislation governing their introduction was passed in 2006. We remain on progress to bring in what we believe has widespread support.”