Scottish Lib Dem leader – Someone must watch the watchmen

Willie Rennie MSP, leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats.

Willie Rennie MSP, leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats.

Willie Rennie MSP, leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, has called for Government action to ensure the use of CCTV doesn’t “spiral out of control” in Scotland.

Figures obtained by The Scotsman through a Freedom of Information request found there are now 4,114 public-space CCTV cameras and mobile camera vans across Scotland. This number is more than treble the 1,269 cameras which were operational across the country ten years ago.

The UK Government has started consultation plans for a new Surveillance Camera Code of Practice for England and Wales. It aims to ensure cameras concentrate on fighting crime and gives the public power to hold police and local authorities to account through a greater transparency.

Rennie wants the Scottish Government to also look at introducing such a code of practice to protect its citizens. He said ministers have a responsibility to prevent a “Big Brother Scotland” and appease those who feel CCTV cameras are there to spy on them rather than welcome its use as a crime prevention tool.

“The UK Government has brought forward proposals in England and Wales for a new code of practice that would help protect people’s privacy and ensure that cameras are being deployed where they can do the most good,” said Rennie.

“Ministers now need to follow suit in Scotland. The risk is that use of these cameras will spiral out of control without any assurance to the public that those who operate them demonstrate integrity and can be held to account.

“The Scottish Government must ensure that someone is watching the watchmen and improve the ways that we regulate the use of CCTV to prevent inappropriate surveillance.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said recorded crime is at its lowest level in 37 years and people are now “feeling safer in their neighbourhoods”.

“Everyone should feel safe in their communities,” he added.  “CCTV has played an important role in making our streets safer by helping our police and prosecuting authorities catch criminals and tackle antisocial behaviour.”

In March 2011, SecurityNewsDesk exclusively reported research undertaken by Graeme Gerrard, deputy chief constable of Cheshire and lead on CCTV issues for the Association of Chief Police Officers, which found there were 1.85 million CCTV cameras in the UK.

When that figure is divided across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland by population, it equates that Scotland should have closer to 155,000 CCTV cameras, rather than the 4,114 the latest research found.

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