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2 June 2015

Stevenson Warns Against Damaging Scotland's Technology Sector

In a Scottish Government debate this week (Tuesday), Stewart Stevenson, SNP MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast, has warned against the loss of high end innovation that could be caused by a bill proposed in Westminster.

Mr Stevenson argued that the Investigatory Powers Bill proposed by the Conservative government in last week’s Queen’s Speech would stifle the development of encryption software in the UK.

He said:

“Key to the proposals is the requirement of a ‘backdoor’ in software that would enable the security services to read the content of private messages protected by encryption.

“Lest anyone think that the terrorism crisis in the world requires the need to read the content of secret messages, consider two things - only the law-abiding will use legal software with that ‘backdoor’ to encrypt their messages. Secondly and critically, it will open up all your financial transactions to scrutiny and potential interference.”>

As Scotland is a leading source of innovative software for the financial sector, Mr Stevenson warned that such legislation would mean that secure software development will migrate overseas.

Mr Stevenson added:

“In the United States where similar moves are under way, Phil Zimmerman, the creator of the world's most widely used email encryption system – Pretty Good Privacy, otherwise known as PGP – has started to move his company to Switzerland.

“The American technology used today is RSA and first emerged in 1978. RSA stands for Rivest, Shamir and Adelman, the mathematicians responsible.

“But UK scientists Ellis in 1970 and Cocks in 1973 actually led the way but were prevented from exploiting their research by the UK Official Secrets regime. Another technology advantage - another world-leading technology lost to the UK economy.

“For Scotland, this Tory proposal risks more of the same. Let us put down firm markers that we are against the detail of the Investigatory Powers Bill. It will damage a key sector of our economy in the UK, but most especially in Scotland.”
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