Entitlement Cards

First Minister's Question Time – in the Scottish Parliament at 3:10 pm on 27th March 2003.

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Photo of Pauline McNeill Pauline McNeill Labour 3:10 pm, 27th March 2003

To ask the First Minister whether the Scottish Executive has any plans to introduce entitlement cards. (S1F-2640)

Photo of Rt Hon Jack McConnell Rt Hon Jack McConnell Labour

As part of our commitment to providing people with better public services, we are supporting the development by Scottish local authorities of a citizen's smart card. The card will initially be used for bus travel, school meals and registration, access to some leisure services and as a library card, although other services can be added as required. We plan to make the card available on a voluntary basis.

Photo of Pauline McNeill Pauline McNeill Labour

I appreciate that there can be benefits to such a card, which the First Minister has outlined, but he will be aware of the concerns of many Scots that such a scheme could violate civil rights to privacy if it is not presented properly. In the light of such concerns, will he assure me that the purpose of any entitlement card would be made clear and that there will be full consultation with Scottish communities about it? Will he assure me that all our citizens, including asylum seekers, will not be forced to carry any card that might be seen as an identity card and will not be harassed by police authorities for not carrying such a card?

Photo of Rt Hon Jack McConnell Rt Hon Jack McConnell Labour

I am not in favour of compulsion. It is important that such a card is voluntary, which is why we are piloting the card with local authorities that wish to pilot it. It is right that they should have such an opportunity.

I am not, however, in favour of our making it compulsory in Scotland for people to carry several cards in order to access different public services. In an age of modern technology and easy access to other services, it is absolute common sense that people should have easy access to public services and that information be held on one card that will allow people local and national access to public services. If that can be achieved, we will make Scotland a better place to live.

Photo of Lord James Selkirk Lord James Selkirk Conservative

Will the First Minister say what the difference would be between the entitlement card that he suggests and the entitlement card that is being suggested for south of the border? Will he spell out in more detail exactly what information will go into the card?

Photo of Rt Hon Jack McConnell Rt Hon Jack McConnell Labour

The Home Secretary has begun a consultation on entitlement cards in the United Kingdom; we will obviously engage with him in that consultation. Such an entitlement card would impact on some devolved areas, so it is important that the Scottish Executive and the Parliament should make representations in due course. However, that is an entirely different concept to the idea that I have just described. A citizen's smart card in Scotland, which local authorities will pilot, can be successful in allowing people in Scotland to get rid of all the clutter of cards and other mechanisms that they use to access local services. There can be access to local and national services through one card, which is an important development. We have been willing to pilot and support such a card and I hope that we can bring it about.