In a General Election dominated by security and the terror attacks of London and Manchester, the SNP and LibDem stood for restraint on surveillance
CIVIL LIBERTIES should not be sacrificed in order to beef up the UK’s security state apparatus according to both the leader of the SNP Nicola Sturgeon and Tim Farron the leader of the UK Liberal Democrats.
In a BBC Question Time General Election special, the two came out in front of audiences in Edinburgh to face questions on security, the Brexit negotiations and the prospect of a second EU and independence referendum.
The Liberal Democrat and SNP leaders both said civil liberties should not be sacrificed in the response to the London terror attack in response to demands by some that the police and MI5 should be given more legal powers.
However, both pointed to the substantial build-up of powers over the past 20 years and to cuts made in personnel and resources by the UK Tory Government. Tim Farron said there was no evidence to support any widening of surveillance powers or passing of new laws. Nicola Sturgeon warned against reforms that could “undermine our own freedoms” and a “knee-jerk” reaction.
“The widening of powers is not something that the evidence is there to support.” Tim Farron
The First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, said she would “listen very carefully” to any request for more powers but said these were already “wide-ranging”.
“What we’ve got to guard against is the security services having so much data that they can’t then make sense of it. We must make sure that in our determination… to keep the population safe we don’t start to undermine our own freedoms and civil liberties because these are what makes us who we are.”
After the London terror attack on Saturday (4 June), UK Prime Minister Theresa May told a press conference in front of 10 Downing Street that “things need to change” in the fight against terrorism, calling for more to be done about online extremism and for a review into whether security services needed extra powers.
“What we’ve got to guard against is the security services having so much data that they can’t then make sense of it.” Nicola Sturgeon
However, both the SNP and the Liberal Democrats cited that Muslim communities had done all they could to alert security services of the presence of extremists and even ostracised them. The attacker of Manchester was reported to the security services five times by friends and associates without action taken by officials. One of the attackers in London Bridge was reported twice before he struck.
In addition, both parties opposed last year’s Investigatory Powers Act, branded by its critics as a “snoopers’ charter” and controversial as it gives intelligence agencies the power to collect large volumes of data from electronic devices.
Farron, face questions on his promise to “roll back” surveillance powers and defended the position saying that the “desire for something to be done is utterly right. But the problem was a lack of resources, not a lack of surveillance”.
“The widening of powers is not something that the evidence is there to support.”
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