Our police state (2): Kenneth Roy
If you are aged 11 to 26 (and I suppose you’re not), you might be thinking of applying for a Young Scot card. Out of interest, I had a look at what happens when you are accepted for this plastic. Here is what I read on the website of the Young Scot charity:
Got a Young Scot card?
Excellent stuff, cos now you can register your card right here and now. This means you can enter all the well cool competitions, and post your ideas/comments/messages on the Loud + Clear message boards. So make the most out of this site, and keep that smile on your face.
It’ll only take ya about a nanosecond so don’t be shy.
Nanoseconds I have at my disposal. Ya. So I had a closer look at the information I would have been asked to provide to get to the stage of registering my card. Among other things, I would have been asked to enter my nickname. No prob. I would have keyed in:
and moved on to the next question.
As one does.
But then I got to thinking (excellent stuff) about the possibility that Difficult B might one day appear in my profile in some database that I might not want to be part of but that I had signed up for without necessarily being aware of what I was doing, being too busy posting my ideas/comments/messages on the message boards, or simply being too young to take a mature decision about this or anything else.
So I phoned the Young Scot charity.
Got through in a nanosecond.
I said that, in theory, it was a splendid idea to have a card giving me a third off my bus fare; useful in pubs, too, I imagined, for proving my age, but that I was unhappy about the request for my nickname.
‘Your nickname?’ she repeated slowly.
‘We don’t ask for nicknames,’ she said.
Not so well cool any more.
Who are the others? Shouldn’t we be told? Do they include our friendly neighbourhood police or the social work department? It’s all delightfully vague.
The two of us talked a bit more and it emerged that the form I was looking at on the Young Scot website had been superseded by the National Entitlement Card. Still all those discount deals in stores and stuff, but now called something else and no longer requiring Difficult B to divulge his nickname.
The NEC (no relation to the National Executive Committee fondly remembered by some of us from the halcyon days of British trade unionism) offers ‘the same great services’ but has been created by the Scottish government, Young Scot, ‘your’ local council ‘and lots of other organisations working together’. It is being promoted as ‘a national card supported by the Scottish parliament’. Only the far from well cool Scottish Review remains sceptical.
I had a look at the application form published by one of the local authority partners in this enterprise. It asks me if I would agree to ‘share’ – beware that word – ‘share’ my personal details with ‘departments and agencies of the council, other Scottish councils, Young Scot, the Scottish Executive and other agencies’ [my italics]. Who are the others? Shouldn’t we be told? Do they include our friendly neighbourhood police or the social work department? It’s all delightfully vague.
Not for sharing – except for the purposes of a statistical survey, apparently – is a range of other personal information. They want to know if I have a disability. What is my ethnic group? (No idea: I come from Bonnybridge). Educational background? (Easy: none). My employment status? (Unemployable). Before Christmas, there was even a suggestion that I might like to share details of any offences I had committed – only for a survey, naturally. (Blemish-free, so far. How boring am I?). That request appears to have been dropped suddenly.
‘Thank you for your email. The lack of content was down to an error on the Content Management System, which has now been fixed, and the Privacy Notice is displaying fully. Thank you for drawing it to our attention.’
If I don’t agree to share the basic information about myself, including my passport-sized photo, and instead perversely tick the opt-out box, life will be more difficult. I will get my card, but ‘future services will need to be applied for separately’. How inconvenient. So, why am I being discriminated against? No reason.
The National Privacy Statement section does not contain any general content at this time. Please check back soon.
So, I email the Young Scot charity and ask why.
‘I have passed on your email to the Digital Director, who will be in touch re. the privacy statement’ is the reply.
Later the same day, Martin Dewar responds:
Thank you for your email. The lack of content was down to an error on the Content Management System, which has now been fixed, and the Privacy Notice is displaying fully. Thank you for drawing it to our attention.
None of this is deeply impressive. But if I am someone aged between 11 and 26, who has successfully applied for the card and failed to tick the opt-out box, I have agreed to share my personal details – for what purpose and with whom I am not entirely sure – but at least I have discounted fares on the buses, so I suppose everything is all right, really.
But it’s not all right. It’s far from all right.
In the FAQs on the Young Scot website, there is the following exchange:
Is this the start of a national ID scheme for Scotland?
No. It’s completely voluntary.
This is no longer true. At Breadalbane Academy in Aberfeldy, and we believe at other schools in Perth and Kinross, pupils now need to carry a National Entitlement Card in order to gain access to their own education. Parents have been told that the system has been put in place ‘to maximise security in the school building’.
Will Young Scot now amend its website to make it clear that the scheme is not completely voluntary? Scotland seems to be introducing a national ID scheme by stealth – at the school gate.
This article was reproduced with the kind permission of Kenneth Roy.
Read Kenneth Roy in the Scottish Review.