The Scottish Government today denounced Westminster plans for identity cards as “unacceptable”.
In a strongly-worded letter to the Home Office, community safety minister Fergus Ewing said the Scottish Government remained “completely opposed” to the scheme.
He told junior Home Office minister Meg Hillier: “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.”
Mr Ewing’s letter was the Scottish Government’s formal response to a consultation exercise on proposed rules relating to the scheme.
These set out regulations and a code of practice that has to be in place before the first ID cards can be issued under the Identity Cards Act later this year.
His letter also sought “clarification” on some of the detail of the proposed regulations – and queried the legality of the national identify register under European human rights rules.
Mr Ewing said today the overall costs of the scheme could be £4.8 billion UK-wide, rising to £5.11 billion if costs associated with foreign nationals were 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,” he said.
“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.”
Citizens would also have to pay to enrol their biometric data, fingerprints and facial image, he said – yet it was “far from certain” that ID cards would help prevent crime and terrorism, and there are “real concerns” at the potential for fraud.
“Although ID cards are a reserved issue, it is the case that every person in Scotland will be affected,” said Mr Ewing.
“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.”
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