Blog piece written by Matthew MacKinnon, Director of Centre for Welsh Studies.
Looking back throughout our countries history, it’s hard to imagine draconian, anti-democratic legislation being implemented here. I often think this could never happen in the United Kingdom in the 21st century, but it could.
I am part of the millennial generation, we have lived through some of the greatest years of human decency, we have good healthcare, a stable jobs market, a globalised economy that means many young people have travelled more in their short lives that the vast majority of humans since our existence as a species. It is easy to take this level of liberty for granted and to think that draconian laws will never effect our generation, but Covid-19 has changed everything.
In March this year the UK Government and devolved administrations began to introduce wide-ranging legislation to contain the spread of the virus. Many accepted these draconian measures, partly because the medical and scientific community begged the people to socially distance to help reduce the chance of the virus spreading. The people listened and within days the nation’s economy came to an almost complete standstill.
Six weeks on and you can feel the frustration starting to grow, the virus death toll has not reached the numbers first feared by the scientific and health community, partly due to the social distancing measures obeyed by the people. Field hospitals erected across the country lay almost empty and the NHS seems to have things under control. People are developing itchy feet and whoever I speak to tells me that they are getting sick of this situation and are being affected negatively due to the lockdown.
The public are now at the stage where they want to see lockdown restrictions begin to get eased. The concern around the recovery to the economy and the long-term effect on the country is at the forefront of people’s minds, especially younger generations, who know any damaging effect to the economy will negatively affect them the most. People in all four corners of our union have on the whole obeyed the measures brought in by the Government in the short term, to help ensure the death of the virus. What the people will not tolerate is further legislation that interferes in their daily lives once this virus begins to die.
The Welsh Government and its First Minister Mark Drakeford seem keen on the idea of a contact tracing app. This sends shivers down my spine; an app tracing citizen’s whereabouts being rolled out across the country under the guise of stopping the spread of a virus. Those of us who believe in the protection of our civil liberties should be very cautious of a UK wide roll out of any contact tracing app. This would be the biggest move towards becoming a ‘big brother state’ in the history of the United Kingdom. Many rightly condemn China for their mass surveillance tactics but we must be wary that this sort of tactic does not become the norm here. What is the point in having your health if that means losing your liberty?
Never has such a move occurred, partially because the technology has not been available until recent years. Such apps will be digitally targeted to the general population and will undoubtedly be downloaded, largely without question by millennials and generation Z. Firstly because they are used to downloading apps and may not be as concerned about their civil liberties and secondly because there may be legislation put in place that says you can’t get back to the ‘new normal’ until you download this app.
I and other believers in freedom must stand together to resist, the ‘new normal’ and any move to force the adoption of any tracing app on the people.