CCTV plans a threat to civil liberties


The creeping erosion of civil liberties by the SNP knows no limits. The Scottish Government seems determined to roll out facial recognition software, a personal ID database and now, supported by the SNP led city council, regional CCTV hubs. If implemented in full (and let's face it, who is there left to stop them?) they will be able to monitor and catalogue the movements of private citizens on an unprecedented scale.

Control and centralisation are now the hallmarks of our increasingly powerful yet entirely unchecked governing party. We have seen them crack down on free speech within their own ranks, with nationalist candidates signing up to a gagging order preventing them speaking against the party; critics daren't set foot in the twittersphere without fear of being monstered by nationalist shock troops and on their watch in Holyrood we’ve witnessed a massive increase in the number of Scots stopped and searched by Police without any legal basis.

Now the SNP-led council in Edinburgh have announced plans for a new CCTV hub that could monitor people from the time they leave their homes in the morning to when they return at night. If they think this is supposed to be reassuring then they are mistaken. On the face of it this looks like a sinister extension of the existing surveillance network. Coupled with the proposed introduction of face recognition software this is starting to feel like a policy Big Brother might be proud of.

The fact is that this new software is not subject to any regulation at present and the UK Biometrics Commissioner has warned of the risk that it poses to our privacy. That is why Lib Dems at Holyrood have been right to press the Scottish Government to act and ensure that new rules are introduced as soon as possible.

In 2014, Edinburgh Council operated 238 cameras across the capital at a total cost of nearly £1 million. More cameras might seem like an easy answer to questions about how we keep people safe, but research in other parts of the country has shown that in many cases, surveillance cameras have failed to deter crime. One local authority in the West Midlands cut costs by £250,000 after they found a large number of CCTV cameras were ineffective and useless.

There will always be a role for CCTV but when you or someone you know has been burgled in the recent crime wave, you’ve got to ask if this is actually keeping us any safer. Cameras are ten a penny, but when was the last time you saw a bobby on foot walking the beat in your street?

Trading our right to privacy for a new, unproven CCTV network strikes me as giving the SNP yet further tools for working out what you might be up to and putting a lid on it. I don't know about you, but as a liberal I want our government and our council focusing on helping the police to catch bad guys, not watching the entirety of our citizenry from dawn to dusk.

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