SCOTLAND’S major cities are among the most watched in the UK – with the country’s capital having tripled its CCTV coverage over the past five years.
Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Dundee and Inverness have all recorded increases in the amount of CCTV cameras keeping watch on the public.
In total, it costs the country’s taxpayers £3,124,054 to staff and maintain the council-owned CCTV operations for all of Scotland’s seven main cities.
And it has been revealed the amount of cameras watching citizens on Scotland’s streets has rocketed from 1269 cameras in 2003 to 1982 cameras in 2008.
The cost of maintaining the Edinburgh’s all-seeing system has shot up from £422,000 to a massive £870,000 over the same five year period.
Edinburgh Council also owns and operates 3 vehicles fitted with CCTV cameras and has a further 15 portable CCTV cameras.
Statistics recently released under the Freedom of Information reveal a disturbing trend among Scotland’s local authorities.
Glasgow Council has shown a slight increase in their number of spy cameras by rising from 380 in 2005 (the earliest year available) to 408 cameras in 2008.
There are also 30 extra mobile CCTV cameras now employed in the Glasgow area.
The cost to Glasgow Council to maintain the camera system has also risen from £1, 463, 738 to a whopping £1, 697, 054.
The city has recently opened a new CCTV state-of-the-art control room. The £100,000 Blochairn-based centre will monitor images from cameras around Central Station and Sauchiehall Street.
CCTV cameras controlled by Aberdeen Council have increased from just 33 cameras, which were attached to a concierge system, in 2003 to a massive 396 cameras which patrol the city today.
Expenditure on the city’s camera system has also jumped from £220,000 to £250,000 over the five year period.
The number of cameras operated by Dundee Council has gone from 723 to 871.
Dundee Council failed to supply the financial figures relating to the staffing and maintenance of their CCTV operations by claiming: “We are unable to quantify the figure for the maintenance of these cameras as they are, in the main, located within buildings and their maintenance is contained within property maintenance expenditure.”
John Scott, a human rights lawyer, said: “These figures show there is further evidence we are very much sleep-walking into a surveillance society.
“I’m sure the public are aware of the cameras in Scotland’s cities, but whether they are fully aware we are the most watched country in Europe, I’m not so sure.
“Of course, CCTV is useful in the detection of crime, but as a preventative measure |I’m not so sure.
“Something we have to take into account is crime displacement as the cameras will just move criminal acts to more secluded areas.
“The whole subject of the increase in CCTV cameras is very concerning.”
Stirling Council is the only city council in Scotland not to have increased their camera allocation in the past five years.
The council claim to operate just 58 cameras today, with the same number in operation in the city in 2003.
The costs of maintaining the system is also exactly the same as five years ago at £167,000.
Inverness had only 19 cameras covering its city in 2003, but that figure has shot up by 50 per cent to 29 cameras today.
And figures from Perth and Kinross Council also show a slight increase in cost and the amount of cameras in the area.
In 2003, 31 cameras were watching over the whole area, while today there are 35 currently in operation.
But, the figures of maintaining the system have gone up by 40 per cent from £50,000 in 2003 to £70,000 in 2008.
Former Deputy Justice Minister Angus MacKay said: “I believe that CCTV makes a major contribution to the safety of people, property and businesses across Scotland.
“People are committed to making their communities safer and are prepared to be dynamic and innovative in the fight against crime.
“The Scottish Executive will stand shoulder to shoulder with them in that fight.
A recent survey has shown almost 75 per cent of Scots are against the new models of CCTV cameras which can also record conversations.
The research of a thousand Scots showed 72 per cent were against such technology.
Similar research carried out last month in London and the South East showed seven out of ten people in those regions were also opposed to such technology.