Law lecturer who criticised the police hits out after his name was on notorious employment blacklist

A law lecturer who criticised the “aggressive” tactics of Police Scotland has spoken of his anger at discovering his name is on a notorious employment blacklist.

Dr Nick McKerrell, a long-standing civil liberties champion, has been informed that he is on a secret industry dossier designed to keep trade unionists out of work.

In an interview with the Sunday Herald, the academic described his inclusion on the list as “chilling”.

The blacklisting scandal became public after it emerged that a firm called Consulting Association, based in the West Midlands, had drawn up a database of trade unionists for use by building companies.

The files were used by firms to block individuals from getting employment in the sector.

The Consulting Association was closed following a raid by the Information Commissioner in 2009, but the documents retrieved led to hundreds of individuals being informed that they were on the list.

Campaigners have also alleged collusion between the Association and Special Branch.

Dr McKerrell, 45, is based at Glasgow Caledonian University and is a trade union rep for the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS).

He lectures in public law and human rights and has been a critic of the single police force, accusing it of “systematic failures”.

He has also campaigned on civil liberties since the early 1990s and has been a candidate for the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP).

Speaking to this newspaper, he said: "As an active EIS member and trade unionist in Higher Education I was broadly aware of the building blacklist and the guys who lost their livelihood in the building trade for trying to organise in their industry.

“The Blacklist Support Group have run an amazing campaign of information but never in a million years did I think I would be on it.”

"However when I contacted the Information Commissioner I was told that there was a name similar to mine on the list. A letter confirming it came this week.”

Dr McKerrell said the names in the Association dossier are marked by a colour: “It explains my name was typed in green as opposed to others that were in black, red or blue – there is no explanation why this is as files were destroyed by the organisation which held the data – the Consulting Association. All that is left is my name with no more information.”

Asked why he was on the list, he said: "I am guessing I am on it for campaigning activity I carried out over 20 years ago against the Criminal Justice Act as a fresh faced law student. This was a major attack on civil liberties and human rights by the Tory Government of John Major at the time – particularly targeting protestors and young people.

“We also joined up with the campaign against the M77 extension at the time – this would seem to be the only link to the building trade. One of our demos marched right up to the building site.

“I helped organise demonstrations of thousands with other people to defy the law in Glasgow City Centre. We also picketed Conservative politicians and attended court hearings when charges were brought under the Act.”

He continued: "This was in the era when the creation of the Scottish Parliament seemed a pipe dream and before the Human Rights Act was introduced to help people protect their civil liberties. But our campaign was a defence of basic rights which had broad popular support – to be put on a blacklist because of that does not make any sense to me.”

Dr McKerrell also raises the possibility that the construction industry blacklisters worked with legacy police forces north of the border:

"To know that now in 2016 this information has been held on me since that time is a bit chilling. Was there collusion between the cops in Scotland and private industry – including the companies building the M77?”

He says the Pitchford Inquiry, which is examining undercover policing tactics in England and Wales, should be extended to cover Scotland: "I support the campaign to bring the Inquiry to Scotland. The full involvement of the police in Scotland colluding with other state authorities to undermine peaceful and democratic political campaigns must be exposed. I hope this is on the agenda following this week's elections.”

A spokesperson for the Scottish Trades Union Congress said: "The STUC have always been aware that the information held by the Consulting Association went beyond using unlawfully held information to deny workers in the construction industry the right to earn a living to support them and their family.

"However it is deeply concerning that individuals are still being contacted by the Information Commissioner, breaking the news that their personal details were held by the Consulting Association purely because they organised and campaigned on issues they felt passionate about, issues that obviously the big corporate funders of the Consulting Association had problems with.

"We are aware that information held on some 200 environmental campaigners was not seized in the original raid and the Information Commissioner’s Office surely has some questions to answer as to why all information in possession of the Consulting Association was not taken at the time."



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