THE SNP government has survived a Holyrood showdown over plans to create a “super ID database”.
Minister Aileen Campbell even took time out from her maternity leave to take part in a key vote in parliament last night, which the SNP won 65-60.
Deputy First Minister John Swinney accused critics of “scaremongering” about the impact of plans to expand the NHS central register (NHSCR) which would let 120 public bodies obtain certain information from it.
But Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie, who called last night’s debate, said: “If there is an all-encompassing single database with one single number for each individual, with no consent required, then it is simple to produce a card with that number and stick a picture on it too. I think everyone would recognise that as an ID card.
“We may not be there yet, but we are creeping towards that destination.”
The plans would see public bodies allowed to access data through an individual’s NHS number, including HMRC for tax purposes. Everyone born in Scotland or registered with a GP north of the Border has a Unique Citizen Reference number held in the NHSCR.
“We cherish personal privacy and will protect it. We are not and we will not create a new database. We will not be sharing health records.”John Swinney
Mr Swinney said the only change being made to the register, which has existed since the 1950s, is the addition of individuals’ postcodes.
“The public are being fundamentally misled by a lot of things being said about this issue,” he said.
He added: “I know precisely what you’re trying to do, Mr Rennie – you’re trying to scaremonger because you’ve run out of road.”
The database would help identify who pays the Scottish rate of Income Tax coming next year. Failure to identify even just 1 per cent of those who should be paying the new rate would cost the public purse £50 million, he said.
All opposition parties, as well as independents John Finnie and John Wilson, backed the Lib Dems’ call for the changes to be part of primary legislation upon which all MSPs can vote.
Green leader Patrick Harvie said: “The proposal to have a single unique reference number across a range of different functions appears on the face to breach [Mr Swinney’s] own privacy principles.” And Tory MSP Liz Smith called the move “identity cards by the back door”.
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