IT’S TIME FOR SCOTLAND TO LEAVE THIS POTENTIAL UK POLICE STATE
By Joe Middleton
The British State is a threat to the liberties of ordinary Scots. The UK and US have both shown contempt for international law by pursuing an illegal war in Iraq and thereby stirring up huge resentment in the Arab World.
Scottish soldiers are dying as part of a British force in Iraq to prop up the US’s access to middle eastern oil supplies. Yet Scotland is awash with oil (though the profits from it have been stolen by the UK Government) and we have no interest in invading other countries.
All these actions are supposedly about defeating terrorism. In fact by ignoring international law the UK and US are making international terrorism much more likely and at the same time they are using the threat of terrorism as an excuse to undermine our basic rights.
When the House of Lords declared that detaining foreign suspects without trial was illegal the British Government decided there was a simple solution and they have now successfully removed the right to trial for all terrorist suspects whether they are British citizens or not.
Moves to remove basic rights from terrorist suspects are not new though the latest proposals are the most extreme. Since 1974 ever more draconian “anti-terror” legislation has been passed, and with every amendment more ‘special powers’ are handed to the Government with progressively less regard for the rule of the law.
Over 97 per cent of those (mostly Irish) people arrested under the original Prevention of Terrorism Act, were never charged. The Guildford Four and Birmingham Six are the most obvious examples of miscarriages of justice for innocent people who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
This latest bill will allow Terrorist suspects to be detained indefinitely without trial and without any evidence produced in justification. The basic principle of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ has been removed.
Furthermore, a draconian system of effective house arrest can now be introduced on the orders of a Judge based on the suspicions of MI5. Let's not forget that this is the paranoid and unaccountable secret organisation who has bugged numerous serving Government ministers and who according to ex Spy Peter Wright "burgled their way across London" on a daily basis.
The most worrying fact however is that these powers could potentially be used against anyone who opposes the Government. Already the BNP and Animal Rights Activists have been identified as possible targets.
“Speaking after the Home Secretary Charles Clarke, announced new laws to control the movements of terrorist suspects, Mr Clarke’s adviser, Stephen McCabe, told The Scotsman he saw this extending to other groups suspected of using violence to further their ends. The Labour MP said: "We can envisage this applying to animal rights extremists and the far-Right, for example.”
"These people are locked up because we believe they are a genuine danger based on what we think is pretty reliable evidence, even if it cannot be divulged in a court of law." (1)
In truth, this could affect any political activist who the Government disagrees with. I can't stand the BNP but they are a registered political party. The Tories are actively playing the race card at the moment, so really there is only a difference in degrees between the right and far right of the political spectrum.
Who decides who is a threat and who isn't? Who watches the watchers?
The rules on ‘national security’ are purposefully vague and cover anyone who is "a threat to the economic interests of the UK".
MI5 have long considered trade unionists to be a legitimate target because they perceive unions to be an economic threat to the UK. In reality they may be a threat to employers but they are an enormous benefit to ordinary workers!
The Scottish Parliament has rejected ID cards outright and its democratic decision should be respected.
Unfortunately, the Government is prepared to tell fairly obvious lies over their proposals. In a letter to myself dated 12/08/2003, Beverley Hughes, the former Home Office Minister said: "The Government has made clear that it does not consider that an entitlement card scheme would have a significant effect in combating terrorism in the United Kingdom."
In the same letter she also said that the Government would not be consulting on a compulsory scheme. In fact the Governments proposed ID card scheme would have been compulsory by 2013!
Tony Blair, Charles Clarke and David Blunkett have all subsequently made an explicit link between ID Cards and Terrorism despite the home office’s own official advice.
The Government has also deliberately overestimated the amounts of terrorist suspects in an attempt to scare people into supporting their plans.
“There are several hundred in this country who we believe are engaged in plotting or trying to commit terrorist acts,” Mr Blair told Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour. (2) A similar claim was made by the ex head of Scotland Yard to the ‘News of The World’.
However a ‘senior security source’ quoted in The London Times newspaper said that these figures were based on numbers of people who traveled to training camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan, prior to September 11.
Of those only 25 or 30 who are known to be in Britain, with some of those in prison in Belmarsh. The source said the Prime Minister’s estimates of the scale of the terrorist threat was sloppy. “It is irresponsible and likely to scare people unnecessarily,” the source said. (3)
A further major problem of ID cards is that they are likely to increase the police harassment already suffered by ethnic minorities.
Writing in the Scottish Left Review Aamer Annwar pointed out the full extent of the current discrimination against “Muslims and people of middle eastern appearance.”
“Home Office figures revealed that stop and searches of Asians under new anti-terror laws soared 302 per cent in a year. The total number of stop and searches under counter-terrorist legislation more than doubled from 8,550 to 21,577. Anti-terror searches of blacks rose 230 per cent, from 529 to 1,745, and of whites 118 per cent, from 6,629 to 14,429.
Some 8,000 people have been stopped under the new anti-terrorism powers. Yet only 170 people have been charged as a result. Just two of those have been convicted. Both were for possession of a small amount of cannabis, which hardly amounts to a ‘terrorist threat’.” (4)
Anti Terrorist experts doubt that the newest bill will even make any improvement in the Government’s ability to fight terrorism. Professor Paul Wilkinson, chairman of the Advisory Board of the Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at St Andrews University, strongly attacked the proposals recently in an article entitled “Wrong weapon in the battle against terrorists”.
He said the proposals were being “rushed through with inadequate time for proper consideration of their implications for civil liberties and their potential efficacy in preventing terrorism.”
He added “not only [would the proposals] once again involve the UK in derogating from Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights and would hence be ruled unlawful by the judges, it would also be dangerously counterproductive.”
He ends his article by writing “I do not believe we should be passing legislation which undermines a basic civil liberty and which, in any event, is unlikely to make any useful contribution to the prevention of terrorism.” (5)
Labour have now been forced (through a lack of parliamentary time available before the election) to drop their proposals, however given that these plans have been raised, dropped and then resuscitated on a number of occasions it is a virtual certainty that they will be brought back soon after the election.
If the unlikely happened and the Conservatives did get in then it is almost certain that very similar proposals would be introduced. The Tories originally considered the idea during the Thatcher Government but decided at the time that it would be too expensive. Given his past actions as Home Secretary we cannot expect a Howard Government to be any improvement in terms of civil liberties to the current Government.
Detention without trial, house arrest and compulsory ID cards are not the actions of a democracy. There is only one sure way of escaping from this potential UK police state and that is by voting for Scottish independence as soon as possible.
(1) 'BNP and animal rights activists face house arrest' (The Scotsman 27th January 2005.
(2) and (3) Times (London) – 1st March 2005
(4) A permanent state of terror? by Aamer Anwar SLR Issue 23.
(5) Wrong weapon in the battle against terrorists by Paul Wilkinson The Scotsman 10th March 2005.
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