LibLink: Christine Jardine: A sinister sign our human rights are in peril?

In her Scotsman column this week, Christine Jardine described something worrying that took place while she took part in a protest for Hong Kong democracy in Edinburgh:

A drone. Hovering a couple of feet above the heads of the group was a small grey machine, the single eye of its mounted camera recording the event and everyone there.

This was, it is important to stress, a Covid-compliant, socially distanced, perfectly legal outdoor gathering of a small number of people in Edinburgh’s High Street. Unremarkable even in these times, save for one thing. It was about the threat to democracy in Hong Kong

She asks if we take our civil liberties for granted:

I mean in this country, where we wear our civil rights and liberties very lightly. We take for granted that we will always have the freedom to march about everything from Pride to reclaiming the streets for women.

That protests like those which achieved universal suffrage, highlighted apartheid abuses and made clear public opposition to the war in Iraq will always be part of our democratic make-up.

But can we be so sure?

She points out how our rights are threatened both north and south of the border:

There is a bill currently going through Westminster – the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill – which would grant police the right to limit protests.

They could control the length of protests, impose noise levels and prosecute anyone for the alarmingly ill-defined crime of causing “serious annoyance”. And those powers could be applied either to demonstrations or to individuals.

The appalling scenes at the Sarah Everard vigil on Clapham Common in March clearly demonstrated what can go wrong if people feel their rights are being infringed by policing.

And just because that bill is going through Westminster does not mean that there is only a danger in England. It sets a tone.

Also, the centralisation of Scottish Police forces under the SNP deprived us of local democratic accountability, and coincided with an increase in suspicion-less stop-and-search in Scotland.

Only huge public pressure forced the SNP government to backtrack on plans for a large-scale identity database that would have been ripe for abuses and invasions of privacy.

It is great to see her speak out so clearly against this sort of stuff. We Liberal Democrats have to because nobody else will.

You can read the whole article here.

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4 Comments

  • Brad Barrows 14th Jul '21 - 10:50am

    The dig at Scotland creating a single police force for the whole of Scotland in 2011 is a bit rich considering it was done as an exercise in cost saving necessitated by austerity brought in by the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition government in 2010. I’m sure Christine Jardine is fully aware of this.

  • Who was controlling the drone?

  • Just a suggestion – try aiming laser pens at the Drone camera – this wouldnt do any harm so you cant be accused of criminal damage but it should stop the operator getting clear images.

  • Steve Trevethan 15th Jul '21 - 5:07pm

    How might we find out who owns the drone?
    Might wearing hats with wide brims and not looking up help?
    Might the film « Enemy of the State » be of relevant interest?

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