Another civil liberties victory for the Scottish Lib Dems

Over the years, the Scottish Liberal Democrats have been responsible for a number of changes in policing and civil liberties policies in Scotland. After we led the opposition, the Scottish Government had to abandon plans for a super ID database that would have made Labour’s look like a champion of civil liberties. Alison McInnes, when she was Justice Spokesperson in the last Parliament, successfully fought both routine arming of the Police and indiscriminate stop and search.

That record continues as the Lib Dems have now ensured that Police Scotland has deleted records of half a billion numberplates captured under numberplate recognition.

From Scotland on Sunday:

The climbdown comes after a Lib Dem Freedom of Information request last year revealed that 852,507,524 number plate records captured by automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras across the country were held in a Police Scotland database, with data available from as far back as 2009. Data retention laws require that any such information is only kept for crimes, while all other data must be deleted. The Lib Dems had expressed concern that the retention of so much information relating to innocent individuals was infringing on people’s civil liberties. The number of records deleted was revealed by the police in response to another Freedom of Information request submitted by the Lib Dems. Information provided by the police showed 547,459,904 number plate records had been disposed of.

Scottish Lib Dem Justice Spokesperson Liam McArthur said:

Last year we revealed that Police Scotland had nearly a billion records of number plates, with the overwhelming majority belonging to entirely innocent motorists.

It has been proven that ANPR cameras can be useful in locating stolen vehicles and identifying uninsured motorists, but we’ve not been given any evidence to show just how effective they are at doing that.

I am glad to see that, after raising this issue, Police Scotland has finally taken action to delete over 500 million records and introduce a policy that will see old records deleted automatically.

There are essential questions that remain unanswered, however; such as how Police Scotland was able to amass such an enormous surveillance network without a clear statutory basis or parliamentary debate. The SNP has a poor record when it comes to protecting people’s civil liberties, eroding and ending many rights and liberties.

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