JOHN Swinney is facing calls to “break his silence” on controversial Scottish Government plans for a “super ID” database ahead of the Scottish Parliament elections in May.
Opposition parties and campaign groups fear the plans could be “kicked into the long grass” with almost a year having elapsed since a consultation closed into the proposals.
Ministers say they are still considering the issue.
But Jim Killock, executive director of Open Rights Group said a response is “long overdue” and called on the government to ditch the plans.
Under proposed amendments to the NHS Central Register (Scotland) Regulations 2006, access to the register would be expanded to 120 public bodies and every person in Scotland would be assigned a unique reference number.
The Deputy First Minister has admitted it would result in additional “verification” and data sharing from the register among public bodies. This would include HMRC for tax purposes.
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.
Liberal Democrat North East MSP, Alison McInnes, said: “It has now been 11 months since the consultation closed and John Swinney is yet to break his silence.
“These plans would change fundamentally the way that the government and public agencies access our private information and they cannot be kicked into the long grass.
“We are now weeks away from the Scottish Parliament election. We need answers from the Deputy First Minister over whether he will act and scrap these dangerous plans.”
Ministers insist that the NHS register has existed since the 1950s and every citizen already has a health service number. The proposed new set-up would only see a “minimum amount of data” being shared, according to its consultation.
Organisations will also have to set up data-sharing agreements to ensure that the data is used for the specific purpose identified. The proposals are also consistent with the data management and privacy principles of the Scottish Government, according to ministers, with sharing only being permitted under “tightly controlled arrangements.”
But McInnes branded the plans “dangerous” and insisted they were opposed by privacy campaigners, human rights groups and ordinary members of the public.
“The proposals that the Scottish Government put forward would see the transfer of wide ranging powers that allow personal data to be obtained or disclosed with real questions over scrutiny,” she added.
“Campaigners and experts have warned that the plans could breach data protection laws and open the door to ID cards. That is the last thing that Scotland needs.”
Killock said the Scottish Government attempted to use a “minor consultation” to push through the plans for an identity database.
“There was, quite rightly, an outcry,” he said.
“Many organisations and individuals – including 200 members of Open Rights Group submitted their objections a year ago. A response from the government is long overdue.
“The Scottish Government need to admit they got it wrong and ditch these plans. If they want to introduce an ID system with such far-reaching implications for privacy, it should be through primary legislation so that there is a proper opportunity to debate the risks.”
A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said: “There is no such ID database planned. We are considering consultation responses and will set out the way forward in due course.”