143. Scotsman 26 Apr. 18 - 'Papers please!' ID cards loom for UK, Bill Jamieson
The Scottish NEC card could become the basis for a national identity system
In classic wartime movies there was often a tense scene when fugitives trying to escape from Nazi-occupied Europe were stopped and asked for identity papers by some jackbooted official.
Our sympathies were invariably with the fugitives, and I suspect it is the lingering memory of these fateful encounters that explains much of the UK's persistent reluctance to adopt ID cards...
Nevertheless, a 'one stop' card with a name, number, photo, address and date of birth details would quickly and efficiently establish our credentials, assist in the curbing of voter fraud and help in issues ranging from street crime to tracking illegal immigrants.
It would also be a notable convenience for individuals and in particular those who because of age or medical condition are entitled to a range of benefits. Here Scotland has stolen a march over much of the UK with its National Entitlement Card system.
The NEC makes it convenient for citizens to access various public services and facilities with only one card. It can be used as a bus pass, library card, leisure membership card and as a Young Scot card...
It's surprising how useful it is. The card system is supported by the Scottish Government and administered by local authorities, and with appropriate modifications I cannot see why such a system could not be rolled out across the UK. So what's not to like?
And who better to manage such a system across the UK, particularly in tagging migrants to our shores, than the Home Office? It has the computer technology, the personnel, the expertise and stacks of population data already: what could possibly go wrong?
Here my doubts outweigh the convenience. I have a visceral concern that an ID system hands potentially enormous power to government and the state. It curtails that preference for discretion and anonymity – those aspects of our daily lives which, however humdrum, we feel to be our private sphere...
The advocates of an ID system always start with the harmless, innocent examples: the bus pass, the library card, the easy access to municipal discounts. But it also creates the foundations upon which all manner of additional information may be added – from our health records to employment data, from voting records to our income, earnings and tax returns...
And why should the technology stop at a physical smart card in our purses and wallets? With the relentless onward march of medical diagnostics and robotics, it is but a small step to the microchipping of the population...
Who could possibly doubt that our information would be in safe hands? That the demands of the state would stop at the basics of our lives? Competence, trust and official assurances: what have we really to fear?
144. Scotsman - Letters, 28 Apr. 18 - No identity crisis, Dr John Welford
I'm amazed that once again there are calls for the re-introduction of ID cards (your report, 26 April). For it is only eight years since the new Conservative/ Lib Dem Coalition Government abolished ID cards as a top priority "to get rid of Tony Blair's 'Big Brother State'".
And now people are suggesting that we really do need ID cards after all, this time supposedly to resolve immigration issues in the wake of the Windrush scandal.
However, immigration problems seem to occur in every country, regardless of whether or not they have ID cards. The main problem with ID cards is not, of course, the cards themselves, but with the "database state" or "Big Brother State" which they invariably bring in their wake. And this can give the state enormous power over its citizens. Of all people in society, politicians are, unfortunately, regarded as some of the least trustworthy. So who would be so foolish as to hand over enormous power to them? For that story can have a most unhappy ending.
The UK has abolished National ID cards twice: in 1952 as well as in 2010. So how many times must it be repeated that mandatory ID cards are not wanted here?
This letter was submitted in response to the preceding article, item 143.
145. Edinburgh Evening News - Letters, 16 July 18 - Hidden agenda behind council waste register, Dr John Welford
John McLellan has my complete sympathy ('Trying to pay garden tax makes you go 'aaargh!'', News, 12 July).
For nothing can be more annoying than getting a repeated "The computer says no" message, and at a stage when you're merely trying to log on!
And if in addition you happen to be elderly and with few computing skills, then it can be well nigh impossible to make any progress whatsoever. Aaargh!
So it's almost unbelievable that Edinburgh City Council could have been so crass as to put pensioners through such unnecessary hazards when they were merely wishing to pay their annual £25 fee for having their garden waste bin emptied.
Unfortunately, there's a hidden agenda here. For the council's primary interest is in enforcing (or at least 'encouraging') people to register for a so-called 'mygov' account.
And what this Orwellian term 'mygov' actually means is that the council will take all your personal details and place them in a national population register. In other words, it's a form of computerised civil registration.
I really wouldn't mind councils doing such things if only they'd come clean with the public, use terms like 'population register' and 'civil registration' and strenuously avoid using bizarre terms like 'mygov account'. And also checking in advance whether this is what people really want.
Finally, here's an interesting experiment for anyone with a 'mygov' account to try. Seek to find a method to get your account permanently deleted - and without any questions being asked. For this should test whether the council is more interested in its ever growing national population database or in its citizens' right to privacy.
The above letter was submitted in response to the article 'Trying to pay garden tax makes you go 'aaargh! by John McLellan':