April 03, 2014 | Jim Killock

Join to found ORG Scotland

Last month, we asked our Scottish supporters whether we should set up an office to deal with policies from Holyrood.

The support was pretty overwhelming. Nearly everyone thought it was a good and important idea, people offered their help, and others listed IT projects and policies that concerned them, some of which we hadn't heard about before. We knew from our activists in Scotland that the government approach to digital matters seems to be very centralising, but we haven't been able to work on these issues to find out how concerning these policies really are.

This week I'm in Scotland talking to our supporters and Scottish policy makers asking them what they think is needed from a group like ORG. At the moment, there seem to be a range of very real concerns:

  • The lack of a strong voice advocating for privacy-respecting government IT
  • Projects including Entitlement Cards, data sharing, health data and measures to block sectarian websites
  • Attacks on Freedom of Information in Scotland
  • The lack of a digital rights debate in the referendum campaign

ORG obviously cannot and would not take a position on Scottish independence, which is a matter for the Scottish people, not a digital rights organisation. Nevertheless, we think politicians that are both for and against independence need to explain how citizens rights will be protected in their vision for the future.

It's clear the UK has failed to protect digital rights in many key respects, including by instigating secret mass surveillance. How would an independent Scotland differ? And does the track record of the devolved regime so far point in the right direction?

While we think ORG has a strong role to play in both a devolved and an independent future, we are also worried by the lack of a strong network of rights organisations in Scotland. Currently, there are very few organisations dealing with these issues, most of whom are also quite under resourced. Many UK organisations dealing with other policy areas have set up offices in Scotland, but this is less true for human rights groups.

Meanwhile, the most important thing is that ORG hears from you. First, we need you to join so we can hire staff in Scotland to work on policy and campaigns. Secondly, we need you to tell us what you think we should be doing, and how you can help.

We're holding a discussion day on Saturday May 10th in Edinburgh: keep the date free, and come along if you can!

If you are an existing ORG supporter who would like to support the project, you can increase your donation and tell your friends about it.

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