CCTV plan ‘to monitor the whole of Edinburgh’

Different CCTV systems focusing on streets, in shops and on trams and buses would be integrated. Picture: Julie Bull
Different CCTV systems focusing on streets, in shops and on trams and buses would be integrated. Picture: Julie Bull
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RESIDENTS will come under CCTV surveillance from the moment they leave their homes in the morning under plans for a completely integrated monitoring network covering the Capital.

Separate systems used by the city council, transport firms, traffic management organisations and neighbouring Lothian authorities will be brought together if proposals are taken forward.

An integrated system will keep the public safe, manage traffic, and keep people safe during demos

Cammy Day

Integration would see individuals tracked while using trams and buses, spending time in shopping precincts and participating in demonstrations. It is also understood software platforms enabling face, car number plate and even body language recognition are among technologies being considered.

Discussions have already taken place with Scottish Government ministers on creating a south-east Scotland CCTV “hub”, which would have the Capital at its heart and allow seamless monitoring across regional and departmental boundaries.

The Evening News has also been told the system would probably see an increased number of mobile cameras used in areas affected by crime and antisocial behaviour.

City leaders said the planned roll-out was in response to public demand for enhanced safety through expanded CCTV.

Councillor Cammy Day, community safety leader, said: “Last year the council put £1m aside to upgrade the council’s CCTV system. But instead we think we need a fully integrated system – fit for the 21st century – that will keep the public safe, manage traffic, and keep people safe during marches and demos.

“Just now the bus company has CCTV, roads [management] have one and the council has one for wider community safety issues – we cannot have three different systems.

“An integrated system will mean there’s one system monitoring the whole of Edinburgh. It means we can monitor people in the streets, on the buses, in the shopping precincts.”

However, civil liberties campaigners warned of “real regulatory and legislative difficulties”. Richard Haley, chair of Scotland Against Criminalising Communities, said: “It’s blurring boundaries between surveillance of an area and monitoring an individual. Information could be shared with intelligence agencies. We have seen that with the intervention of both special branch and MI5 in issues [viewed as] domestic extremism, but which we might call participation in demonstrations.”

Cameron Buchanan, Conservative MSP for Lothian, added: “I think CCTV works well in areas where there are known problems but I would not want it to become a snooper’s charter.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Our National Strategy for Public Space CCTV in Scotland facilitates a more strategic approach to CCTV development and management for local partners and we have encouraged City of Edinburgh Council to participate in the COSLA working group, given the detailed work they have embarked upon to examine the future of CCTV in Edinburgh.”

johnpaul.holden@edinburghnews.com