The Scottish Parliament yesterday condemned the UK ID Cards Bill as flawed and an unacceptable threat to civil liberties, leaving the legal position of the ID scheme largely unchanged but positioning it as a live election issue north of the border. The vote suggests that the Scottish Executive's 'kinder, gentler ID' policy may not be enough.
Labour is the largest party in the Scottish Parliament, but does not have an overall majority and therefore shares power with the Liberals. The Scottish Parliament cannot reject the ID scheme outright, however it can express opinions, as it did yesterday, and it can choose how to use the ID card scheme with reference to those devolved functions it has control over. The compromise settled on by the Parliament's Labour-led executive is therefore that ID cards will not be required to access devolved public services in Scotland. It lost yesterday's vote, however, because its LibDem partners (the LibDems in the UK Parliament oppose the ID scheme) chose to abstain.
This allowed a pack of Nationalist, Tory, Scottish Socialist, Green and Independent MSPs to pass the motion by 52 votes to 47. The motion itself was moved by Green MSP Patrick Harvie, who we understand is not entirely accustomed to winning votes. Aside from the Greens, an obvious beneficiary of the vote is the Scottish National Party, which will gleefully exploit the imposition of an expensive and dubious scheme by the UK Parliament. Tory opposition in Scotland is currently limited by the UK party's position of favouring ID cards provided they're fixed, while the LibDems have the difficulty of developing clear blue water between themselves and Labour while remaining a part of the Scottish Executive.
In the debate itself (which you'll find, along with the text of the motion, here), Labour's arguments (such as they were) relied heavily on the alleged popularity of ID cards with the public. Should this fail to remain the case, Scottish Labour could find itself in some difficulties come the next Scottish Parliament elections. ®