One concerning undercurrent in all of this is the tenor of the Minister's paper cut:
"Given the current financial climate, the UK Government should have better uses for the vast sums of money being spent on this scheme, which presents an unacceptable threat to citizens' privacy and civil liberties, with little tangible evidence to suggest it will do anything to safeguard against crime and terrorism.
"This money could and should be used to pay for much more worthy causes like more teachers, nurses or police officers or more schools and hospitals."
"All citizens, including Scots, will be expected to fork out for a card and to enrol on the national identity register when this becomes compulsory in 2012. The initial application fee has been fixed at £30 and that is supposedly a cut-price offer to entice citizens to get one before they become compulsory. How much they will cost from 2012 is anyone's guess."
Which brings us to the question: why does Mr Ewing oppose these ID cards? Civil liberties are mentioned certainly, albeit after the cash question. So whence the principled basis for SNP opposition? Given the absence of a clearly demarcated ideology underpinning the Scottish National Party, it is tempting to construe much of their enthusiasm for liberties as motivated primarily oppositionally, without a sturdy basis in principle. The point is moot, of course, whether they would be against ID cards if the representatives of the Labour Party were not holed up in Downing Street. On the available evidence, however, I retain little doubting thoughts on that score.
Nevertheless, Ewing is quite right. The ID card notion will struggle to look convincing on balance sheet. In principle, it is an odious and unnecessary expansion of bureaucratic power. The quicker we see the back of it the better.