Surveillance state? No, it’ll be worse than that

To deal with gross factual inaccuracies first: the government’s plans for ID cards do not include any provision for medical records and will not replace the driving licence, and a national database for DNA will not in any way aid medical research. If kept as proposed, it overturns the fundamental legal principle of innocent until proven guilty – it would work on the basis of a presumption that all of us are guilty until eliminated from enquires by the DNA test.

Beyond that, there are a number of issues about ID cards which need to be examined, but I would like simply to look at two.

Will they work? The government’s track record here is well known – the NHS computer system in England is several billion pounds over budget and several years behind schedule, and as he leaves his post the man in charge of implementing the entire system admits that it is not fit for purpose and is unlikely to ever be fit for it. On a practical level, most doctors in England avoid using it wherever possible because it is slow, crashes and does not deliver.

Perhaps it is this wonderful NHS computerised database that Dave Biggart was referring to when he suggested a data card which could save his life. Ah well, a dose of reality can sometimes be just what is needed to treat these cases.

It is now admitted the new passports with bio-data will not last half the time they were supposed to – doesn’t that give you even more faith in large government computerisation projects?

All computer experts who have been asked in TV interviews about the ID-card project – people who have no commercial interest in it – agreed that it was too large, too ambitious and not deliverable in its proposed form. But if the government says it’s going to be all right, then that’s that, isn’t it? (Anyone remember a place called Iraq and a “necessary” war?) The second point is a key one which has not been aired anything like enough, and that is the question of trust. Do you – any of us – trust our government to both collect and store this information accurately and effectively and not to mis-use it?

An ID card, as currently proposed, where the individual will not have the right to access what is on that card, will not have the right to correct any wrong information that may be held, but will have the responsibility to pay for it (and the penalty of a large fine if they do not inform the authorities of any change of address, with the possibility of criminal charges for failing to do so) does not in my view seem to take our safety and liberty any further forward.

Security, I hear you say, and quite rightly – so let us have the expert view from MI5. It tells us that ID cards will not in any way improve our security against terrorism.

Those of us who have spent some time in countries with authoritarian regimes, or former regimes where the old apparatus has not been dismantled, know what the people there thought of this kind of oversight.

The Information Commissioner says we are in danger of sleepwalking into a “surveillance state”. I think things are much worse than that: sadly, it seems the ostriches are leading us in a procession to an even more sinister destination.

Patrick McNally FRCS, Kennoch House, St Quivox , Ayr.

Dave Biggart needs to include me out of his “vast majority of honest Scots” who “would have no problem with the implementation”

of either the national ID card or the universal DNA database which is being mooted.

I have a big problem with both of these measures. They are symptomatic of the insidious move towards the sort of surveillance society that I for one want no part of. It smacks of a people-control attitude that is all too easily corrupted.

And with the national DNA database idea, it clearly overthrows the presumption of innocence that has been the hallmark of free societies for yonks. Thank you, but no thank you.

Mr Biggart may argue that these measures could be kept on a voluntary basis. If so, I have only one comment on the chances of that happening: fat.

Stan Stanfield, Cluny Hill College, Forres.