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  • Writer's pictureAlastair Blair

The A71 and the Polis state, 2022

Like many people, I was somewhat perturbed to see the photos, taken from drones, of people exercising in the fresh air, nowhere near any other human being. The police seem to think that it is acceptable to do this. However, as Janice Turner wrote today in The Times, "What is the point of that nasty little video posted by the Derbyshire force spying on law-abiding citizens with a drone? Why shame a middle-aged couple on a quiet dog walk or chide a woman who paused on a path to take an Instagram snap. “NOT ESSENTIAL,” screamed the police caption. Yes, maybe, but was it harmful?" Quite. The chances of this middle-aged couple injuring themselves and requiring hospital treatment - one of Plod's objections to their behaviour - are small. In contrast, the selfish arseholes who have been zooming up and down on the A71 on their motorbikes in Ayrshire over the last weekend are., as we know from many summers of watching the ambulance lights flash past our house, pretty high. Yet I don't see the local rozzers doing much to stop them. Doubtless, they are too busy investigating 50 year olds who have taken their dog for two walks in one day. The big problem is that it's not a long distance from this to the police turning up on your doorstep to "check your thinking." Except that this has already happened, albeit not in relation to the coronavirus.

There is talk of using our mobiles to track our movements. That seems sensible if it allows the authorities to identify people to whom the virus may have been passed on. It is also sensible to have the police taking issue with crowds of people and groups congregating in a fashion that might spread the virus (and idiots on motorbikes). But individuals or couples who are nowhere near anyone else is, currently, a bridge too far in my opinion.

The real problem in my view is not with what's happening today. Rather, while I have no huge problem with infringements on my liberty in the current circumstances, I do wonder just how readily the police and the state, whether local or national government will give up these new powers and ways of watching over us once this crisis is over?

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