Scottish Liberal Democrats have accused SNP ministers of jumping the gun after it emerged proposals for two new identity databases have been put out to tender – before they have been approved by parliament.
Controversial Scottish Government proposals to create a super ID database by expanding access to the NHS Central Register to 120 public bodies have come under sustained criticism from the party and from civil liberties campaigners. Whilst the Scottish Government has yet to even respond to the consultation responses or admit it is going ahead with the plans, it emerged this weekend that a contract has already been put to tender.
The tender shows that the Community Health Index will be replaced with “a modern Enterprise Master Patient Index (eMPI) Solution”. The new software would assign every person with a unique patient identifier and enable those using the system to register an interest in a patient in order to be notified of changes to that patient’s information.
In further revelations, the tender also revealed a separate ID database for children and young people. The Scottish Child Public Health and Wellbeing System would give all local authorities access to a single database storing “health reviews of children from shortly after birth until they leave secondary school.” It merges three existing health databases for children.
The Scottish Government procurement body has said that the lots being put out to tender can be operated together or separately, and that “the data has to be secure but not necessarily in the UK”.
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said:
“It is an insult to many that the SNP Government has jumped the gun in this way. SNP Ministers have by-passed parliament by putting the super ID database contract out to tender before it has had a chance to consider the proposals.
“People will be concerned that the SNP Government is now tendering contracts on two separate and significant databases without even a nod to parliament. SNP Ministers want to spend public money to keep track of the Scottish public. The very least we deserve is an explanation as to why these systems are needed and their potential risks.
“With a new Scottish Child Public Health and Wellbeing System planned, these proposals show why you need Scottish Liberal Democrats to stand up for civil liberties.
“The emergence of this new children’s database, combined with plans for the Super ID database, will fuel concerns that we are moving closer towards ID cards.
“SNP Ministers need to understand that they do not have carte blanche to harvest our personal data without reason. Parliament deserves a full debate on the approval of these tenders including why they tenders are needed and the full risks involved.”