Letters: National data base is a worrying Holyrood plan

Tim Farron. Picture: John Devlin
Tim Farron. Picture: John Devlin
Have your say

AT the weekend, Tim Farron claimed that the SNP government was responsible for “an almost Orwellian, big brother, authoritarianism” (SNP ‘attacking civil liberties’ claims new Lib Dem leader, July 20).

In his response, SNP MP Drew Hendry was most dismissive, saying that Farron was “out of touch” and that he had made “silly comments”.

However, this response seems remarkably out of touch itself, for these days I’m increasingly aware that many people do have serious concerns about growing signs of authoritarianism coming from the Scottish Government.

Certainly the main issue that concerns me, and it was one referred to by Farron, is the SNP’s plans for creating a ‘super ID’ national database.

This project, first introduced by Scottish Labour in 2006, brought in the Scottish National Entitlement Card. This was in the deceptive form of the harmless-looking ‘free pensioner bus pass’. But nine years on, this card is now clearly seen to be a ‘slow burn’ smart identity card, one very similar to the one Tony Blair was hoping to impose throughout the UK, but failed.

Of course, our SNP government has always claimed to be totally opposed to such ID cards, so why did it not promptly abolish them when coming into power in 2007? I have never received a clear, honest answer to this question.

But indeed, far from abolishing the scheme, the government is now stepping it up. So earlier this year it carried out a consultation, whose clear, but unstated, aim is to enable it to create a Scottish National Identity Register, although it has been careful not to use this term.

So in essence, it wants to hoover up all our personal identifying information from the NHS’s vast Central Register (NHSCR), and use this as the basis for its National Identity Register.

So this sophisticated ID national database scheme, which has never been properly debated and approved by the Scottish Parliament, continues to progress, with the population at large left in total ignorance and never consulted about it.

This certainly bears all the hallmarks of authoritarianism to me.

Dr John Welford, Boat Green, Edinburgh

Labour welfare rebels show the right spirit

As a Labour councillor in Midlothian, I write to express my disgust at the Parliamentary Labour Party for failing to vote against the Tory Welfare Reform and Work Bill.

I congratulate the 48 Labour MPs, and in particular Jeremy Corbyn, who voted against the Bill, despite pressure from the Whips. This helps explain why so many Labour Party members see Jeremy Corbyn as the only candidate for the leadership who offers hope for the future.

Many members like myself will continue to fight against the austerity measures of the Tories, the SNP and indeed the Labour Party itself, should it continue down this path.

However, I want to point out one area where benefit money could be saved, by regulating the rents paid to private landlords.

I am currently involved in a case where the tenant of a former council property in Midlothian is being charged £183 per week. The equivalent council charge is around £55. This money is going straight into the pockets of modern day Rachmans.

Jeremy Corbyn gives the Labour Party a vision of taking public transport and energy back into public ownership and protecting the NHS. I think that is a vision worth fighting for.

Alex Bennett, Labour councillor, Danderhall

Charity right to ask for Christian staff

Atheist campaigner Neil Barber now wants a private Christian charity to be unable to advertise for a committed Christian to work for it (Letters, July 22).

Anyone who believes that Mr Barber is seeking a secular objective and not a more blatant anti-Christian one might some suspect have to be very naive.

Gus Logan, York Road, North Berwick

Planning authorities are still slow to act

The latest planning performance statistics for Scotland’s 34 planning authorities suggest there is still major room for improvement in the time taken to determine planning applications.

The average decision time for major applications was 36.6 weeks in 2014-15, two weeks slower than in 2013-14. This remains well above the target period of 16 weeks.

In total, nine authorities met the 16-week average target, up from five in the previous year, so there is some reason to feel encouraged that things are moving in the right direction.

Orkney was the best performing authority, taking an average seven weeks to decide major applications and was joined by Argyll and Bute, Clackmannanshire, Dundee, Inverclyde, Loch Lomond, Moray, North Ayrshire and Renfrewshire in meeting the 16-week target.

Failure to take a decision on major developments without delay can be a real obstacle to economic development. The longer these projects remain stuck in planning, the more difficult it is to maintain a pipeline of new work for the construction sector.

Efforts need to be redoubled to streamline the planning process and to give planning departments the necessary resources to make quicker decisions.

Vaughan Hart, managing director, Scottish Building Federation, Crichton’s Close, Edinburgh