Edinburgh MSP raises concerns over Chinese-made CCTV cameras posing risk to national security
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Chinese-made CCTV cameras used by the Scottish Government are being replaced amid concerns they pose a risk to national security.
Scottish Lib Dem leader and Edinburgh Western MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton asked about the cameras in the Scottish Parliament after he previously revealed more than a dozen Scottish councils, including Edinburgh, also used them. And he urged Justice Secretary Keith Brown to speed up their replacement.
The UK Government has instructed that the cameras should not be used by any government department because the Chinese companies which manufacture them are subject to Chinese national intelligence law. The cameras have also been linked to repression of Uighurs in China.
Speaking in the Holyrood chamber, Mr Cole-Hamilton said: “Scottish Liberal Democrat research conducted in September found that Hikvision CCTV cameras are currently used by thirteen councils across the country. They are also installed as part of the Police Scotland and Scottish Government estates. Two weeks ago, the UK Government Security Group ordered government departments to stop installing cameras manufactured by Chinese firms, including Hikvision, because they pose a threat to national security. So, can I ask the Minister, will the Scottish Government now accelerate the refresh of CCTV equipment so we can remove these cameras from our sites of sensitivity as soon as possible?”
Mr Brown said it was for local authorities to decide about their CCTV systems and for the chief constable to decide about Police Scotland’s. “The Scottish Government is in the process of replacing and upgrading security equipment across its estate as part of a multi-year improvement programme. All existing CCTV kit and equipment, including Hikvision and other companies’ products, is being replaced with a new integrated system to improve and future-proof the security of the Scottish Government estate. We will continue to provide such advice and information as we are able to provide to local authorities and to Police Scotland, but it will be a decision for those bodies.”
Afterwards Mr Cole-Hamilton said Lib Dem councillors in Edinburgh had secured assurances that the council was already working to remove its Hikvision cameras. And he said: “We can’t afford to be nonchalant. Experts have likened this to ‘digital asbestos’ because companies under the control of foreign governments have got a route into our surveillance systems. The time has come for a ban on the sale and use of this equipment. Having an ongoing relationship with firms like this is really beyond the pale.”