SNP accused of ‘running scared’ of ‘super ID database’ plans

Lib Dem MSP Liam McArthur urged the Scottish Government to end its silence over the controversial NHS proposals. Picture: Toby William
Lib Dem MSP Liam McArthur urged the Scottish Government to end its silence over the controversial NHS proposals. Picture: Toby William
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The Scottish Government has been accused of “running scared” over controversial proposals for a “super ID database” in Scotland after dithering for almost two years on the plans.

The proposals would see a sweeping extension of the NHS central register (NHSCR), allowing 120 public bodies to obtain information from it. A public consultation into the plans closed in February 2015.

Ministers have played down concerns and insisted the only change being made to the register, which has existed since the 1950s, is the addition of individual’s postcodes. Claims of a super ID database have been flatly rejected.

But opposition parties are now demanding that the Scottish Government end its silence on the issue and set out its plans.

Liberal Democrat Orkney MSP Liam McArthur said: “It has been two years since the SNP launched their consultation on creating the super ID database. Despite repeated questioning in parliament, the Scottish Government is unable or unwilling to provide the most basic of answers.

“SNP ministers are clearly running scared. Their proposals for an intrusive super ID database were criticised by experts. All the opposition parties backed the Liberal Democrats in a vote condemning ministers’ plans to establish this through the backdoor, without proper parliamentary scrutiny.

“The SNP can’t escape the fact that they no longer have the majority needed to do this. It is time they ruled out rebooting these dangerous plans once and for all.”

The proposal 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.

Campaigners say it could be used to keep a record of a variety of information – from whether a person has been treated for cancer to whether they have signed up for membership of Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic ­Garden. Experts have added that the plans could breach data protection laws and open the door to ID cards.

Jim Killock, executive director of Open Rights Group, said: “The Scottish Government should come clean and admit these plans were a mistake and that they shouldn’t have attempted to sneak them in through a minor consultation.

“The Scottish public deserve a full and proper parliamentary debate on any plans that will lead to an ID card system in Scotland.”

The public consultation on the issue revealed concerns from a range of bodies on the proposals.

NHS National Services Scotland chiefs warned ministers: “The consultation paper does not include sufficient detail… nor an assessment of the risks to privacy to support a decision.”

Almost 90 per cent of respondents were opposed, including privacy watchdog the Information Commissioner, the Chartered Institute of Taxation and the Law Society of Scotland, which all warned the proposals may be illegal.

The scheme also was rejected by the British Medical Association, Royal College of GPs and Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons.

A Scottish Government spokesman insisted there were no plans to create a super ID database.

“We are considering consultation responses and will set out the way forward on this, and related issues, in due course,” he added.