A Scottish Government plan that critics say would have enabled the creation of a Scottish National ID database has been dropped.
In 2012 the Scottish Government consulted on proposals that would have allowed almost every public body in Scotland to use the Unique Citizen Reference Number (UCRN) to identify and share data about their clients.
The UCRN is allocated to people as part National Health Service Central Register ("the NHSCR") . The NHSCR holds the basic demographic details of everyone who is born, who has died or is (or has been) on the list of a General Medical Practitioner in Scotland.
The main official purpose of the NHSCR is to support the transfer of health records, but it is also used by local authorities as a population register.
The proposed changes in the legislation would have allowed almost every single Scottish public body, including HMRC, - to check and correct any data they hold on citizens against the NHSCR.
Critics argued that the proposals had to potential to breach data protection rules, and dubbed it a "super ID database" which could be a precursor to a National ID Card system.
The SNP had previously opposed similar UK-wide proposals to establish a similar National ID Card system.
In February a written response from Derek Mackay to a Scottish Parliamentary question from SNP MSP Clare Haughey on the data sharing proposals confirmed they had been quietly dropped.
Mackay announced: "It would not be appropriate to broaden the range of bodies prescribed in legislation who can share data with the National Health Service Central Register, even subject to strong controls. Ministers therefore do not intend to take forward the amendments to this effect originally proposed.
"Ministers do believe that it is desirable that a member of the public, who wants to access public services online, can be given the chance to demonstrate their identity easily – and be confident that no-one else is able to pretend to be them, and that their privacy is guaranteed. This becomes ever more important as the Scottish Government takes on new powers, prepares to deliver new services, and aims to make these services as convenient, accessible and user-centred as possible."
Civil liberties campaigners, The Open Rights Group, have welcomed the announcement. Executive Director Jim Killock said: “If these plans had gone ahead, Scotland would have introduced a national ID system that would have tracked Scottish citizens through the public services they use. This would have fundamentally changed the relationship between Scottish citizens and the state.
“We are very keen to work with the Scottish Government on any future plans to allow Scottish citizens to make accessing services online easier. Privacy must be at the heart of such a system.”