Glasgow Council “training staff to snoop on neighbours’ bins”

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A SCOTS council is training workers to watch neighbours’ bins for signs of terrorism.

A staff training course – designed to help employees recognise terrorist threats – provides a list of “odd things” which the council say are suspicious, encouraging hawk-eyed neighbours to report them to police.

Among the list of suspicious activities are “bins with suspicious or unusual items”, as well as bins which are “deliberately avoiding contact”, meaning they are not put out as normal.

Extra bins were brought in to cope with the litter
Staff are being told to keep an eye on bins for unusual use

 

The course also lists “curtains closed most of the day”, “visits to the house at unusual times by strangers” and “neighbours seldom seen or avoiding contact” as the signs of a potential terrorist in your neighbourhood.

But the council have been slammed by critics – who have likened the suggestion of snooping on neighbours to the dystopian world of surveillance depicted in George Orwell’s 1984.

The training documents were revealed through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to Glasgow City Council (GCC) by online publication The Ferret.

The request revealed that the course has been taken by 1,424 staff members, whilst 546 have already completed it.

But other councils across Scotland have also implemented the course – 510 staff have been trained on the course in South Lanarkshire, 301 in East Ayrshire, and 75 in Moray.

The section on observing neighbours’ activities – and bins- comes in a scenario “knowledge check.”

It reads: “You live in a city centre housing estate and have started to notice odd things about a house near you. Which of the following options do you think are suspicious?”

It then lists the four options of closed curtains, unusual visits to the house, quiet or seldomly seen neighbours and usual bin activity as the potential answers.

Once employees have given their answers, they can press a button to reveal the council’s “correct” answer.

It reads: “Hopefully you have said that all of the above is correct!”

Bombings

“It is very easy to overlook an odd situation and think nothing more about it. This is exactly what happened in Renfrewshire during the Glasgow Airport bombings.

“How many times have you heard the saying ‘I thought there was something odd about that house’ when news crews interview locals after incidents are covered on national television?

The section finishes with the phrase “Vigilance can save lives” in bold lettering.

But the course has been slammed by critics – who claim that the move is a gross infringement of privacy.

Patrick Harvie, Scottish Green MSP for Glasgow, said: “Making council employees think they should be snooping in their neighbours’ bins or reporting them for keeping their curtains closed also sounds like something from 1984.”

A spokesman for GCC insisted that they were not encouraging residents actively to investigate neighbours’ bins but to be alert to any suspicious activity which presented itself.

He said: “The training material does not advise people to check their neighbours’ bins.”

The news of the course comes just one day after the government announced a new bill to curb council powers to spy on citizens.

The new Investigatory Powers Bill unveiled in the Commons yesterday has included a number of safeguards which mean council officials face up to two years in prison for mounting snooping operations to detect “trivial” offences.

The training course is a part of the UK-wide government “Prevent” strategy – designed to combat terrorism.

The same course has been slammed for equating peaceful animal rights, environmental and anti-nuclear campaigners to far right bombers.

In a section titled “What is Terrorism?” the course lists animal rights, environmental and anti-nuclear groups under the heading “Who are our current threats?”

The same section list the groups alongside far right extremist David Copeland – who killed three when pipe-bombing a London pub in 1999.

The revelation has sparked outrage from campaign groups – who have called the training materials a “gross insult.”

Dr Richard Dixon, director at Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: “People will be amazed that Glasgow Council could possibly label ordinary concerned citizens as ‘terrorist threats.

“This is a gross insult to the many, many people who are concerned about climate change, nuclear weapons or animal rights, and to the charities who campaign peacefully on these issues.”

But the GCC have defended the course, saying: “The material does not accuse legitimate campaigners of anything – and doesn’t mention any of these groups at all.

“The course looks at how violent extremists supporting a variety of causes can pose a threat to safety.”

THE STORY ON THE FERRET

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