Scottish councils have used anti-terrorism legislation to spy on primary school children and to investigate trivial complaints and minor misdemeanours, new findings have revealed.

The Regulation of Investigatory Powers (Scotland) Act (RIPSA) was intended to combat serious crime and terrorism but has instead been used to investigate complaints about loud televisions, slamming doors, vandalised washing lines and people running up and down stairs.

The controversial legislation allows local authorities to install hidden cameras, intercept emails and secretly follow people who are suspected of breaking the law.

It allows councils to do this without getting the go-ahead from the courts, and means they are able to bug someone and take pictures of them or make use of undercover agents.

A Freedom of Information Act request carried out by the Scottish Express revealed that Dundee Council, has launched 432 RIPSA probes since 2008, and said it has investigated people for having their television volume too high, vandalising washing lines and vandalising washing lines.

In East Renfrewshire, officials installed covert CCTV cameras at Uplawmoor Primary School and an unnamed bowling club.

The anti-terrorism legislation was also used by the finance departments, benefits, environment, and trading departments of other local authorities.

Matthew Sinclair, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance said that the excessive use of these powers is a waste of money.

He said: “Councils should focus on delivering the services residents pay for, not wasting their cash snooping on them.

“Extensive use of costly covert surveillance represents poor value for taxpayers’ money, and in many cases will be a totally unjustified invasion of privacy.”

Nick Pickles, director of Big Brother Watch, said that he was concerned at the number of councils abusing their powers.

He said: “These powers were intended for serious crimes, and instead councils used them for snooping on people who made too much noise going up and down their stairs.

“Too often local authorities jump to heavy-handed tactics when more proportionate alternatives are available. People are right to question why it is that their elected councillors are not doing more to protect their privacy and rein in this snooping.”

Out of the 27 councils that responded to the FOI request by the Express, which showed that local councils had gone ahead with at least 1,460 investigations using RISPA. However, despite the widespread spying and surveillance that those investigations involved, they resulted in just 32 convictions, 20 fixed penalty notices, eight cautions and one referral to the children’s panel.

The revelation comes following widespread outrage over the NSA spying operations conducted under Obama.

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