Letter: Cameras a threat to civil liberties

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The Independent Online
Sir: Stewart Hennessey is correct in his observation on closed-circuit television systems that 'arguments over civil liberties seem to have collapsed in the face of fear of crime'; and rightly so. Evidence shows that crime has dropped dramatically in town and city centres throughout Britain where such systems have been installed since the Safer Cities Project was launched in 1988.

But it was interesting that Mr Hennessey chose to focus on projects in Scotland, and ironic that he cited the CityWatch scheme being launched in Glasgow in September. The future of CityWatch has been in doubt for the past year; that it is to go ahead at all is despite, rather than because of, the Government.

Mr Hennessey's comment that 'the city is investing pounds 500,000 in the project' tells only part of the story. In fact, funding currently in place totals pounds 560,000, comprising pounds 100,000 each from the Glasgow Development Agency, Glasgow City Council and Strathclyde Regional Council, plus pounds 260,000 from the retail sector. This leaves a budget shortfall of more than pounds 200,000, which the Scottish Office was asked to meet. The request was refused, with the result that the original project, planned to run for an initital period of three years, has had to be curtailed to a one-year pilot scheme.

Nor is Glasgow alone in being short-changed in this way by the Scottish Office. This contrasts sharply with England, where the Home Secretary recently announced 40 new projects, largely funded through Urban Crime Grants and the Single Regeneration Budget. There is no equivalent funding for Scotland, despite pleas to the Scottish Officefrom local authorities, agencies and MPs.

The Government's claims that crime prevention is high on its agenda are hollow when tested against Glasgow's needs.

Yours sincerely,

MIKE WATSON

MP for Glasgow Central (Lab)

House of Commons

London, SW1

7 July

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