'Questions remain' over why the Scottish Government believes Covid vaccine certificates are necessary

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

'Questions remain' over why the Scottish Government believes Covid vaccine certificates are necessary two week grace period

Related tags: Vaccine passport, Scotland, Coronavirus, Night time economy

Industry leaders have questioned why the Scottish Government continues to believe vaccine certificates are necessary for late-night venues, as Covid cases fall rapidly across the country.

Yesterday (28 September), operators were given a two-week grace period to the introduction of so-called 'vaccine passports' to 18 October. 

The scheme​ will still come into effect from 5am on Friday 1 October, but First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said there will be no enforcement action against businesses that do not comply with the rules during the grace period in order to allow them time 'to test, adapt and build confidence in the practical arrangements they will need to put in place to be compliant with the scheme'.

Vaccine certificates will be required in Scotland for nightclubs; unseated indoor live events with more than 500 people in the audience; unseated outdoor live events with more than 4,000 people in the audience; and any event, of any nature, which has more than 10,000 people in attendance.

Venues subject to the scheme are able to download a free QR code verifier app to a smartphone or device, and will be required to check a customer’s QR code to ensure the record of vaccination is genuine.

The requirement for full vaccination does not include staff, contractors, performers or volunteers involved in the delivery of the event.

An NHS Covid Status App, which will provide a QR code for each vaccination an individual has received, will be available for download from tomorrow (September 30).

UKHospitality Scotland has welcomed the delay, but warns that challenges still lie ahead for operators.

"Acknowledging the concerns of business, raised by UKHospitality Scotland and others, gives late-night businesses time to test and adapt their processes," says Leon Thompson, UKHospitality Scotland executive director.

“However, the reality is that the Scottish Government is not ready to introduce this scheme. With no published regulations or guidance, businesses are working in the dark with little chance of being ready for Friday. Similarly, there has been no public campaign to advise people on what they need to do, with the app for downloading certification only available from this Thursday.

“The delay in enforcement doesn’t remove the difficulties that many businesses will face later when staffing shortages will remain. Many businesses are already planning to remove themselves from scope. For example, pubs planning to close function rooms at midnight to avoid the need to check passports. This reduces their ability to trade at full capacity now when they need to generate maximum revenue and undermines financial prospects as we head closer to Christmas."

Questions were raised last week​ about the Government's broader-than-expected definition of what will constitute a 'nightclub' under its vaccine certificate scheme, with fears that late-night pubs and bars could also be affected by the scheme.

Addressing MSPs yesterday, Sturgeon said she recognised 'many businesses have concerns about certification', but stressed: "The Government remains of the view that a targeted certification schemes does have a part to play in driving vaccination rates up as high as possible."

In response, the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) confirmed last night that legal action has been formally commenced in an attempt to halt the scheme being rolled out.

The trade body has instructed Lord Keen QC to serve a writ on the Scottish Government, and lodged a petition at the Court of Session asking for orders that would prevent the 'vaccine passport' scheme from coming into effect until after a full Judicial Review can be completed.

An NTIA spokesperson said: “ A two-week delay before enforcement does not in any way address the problems with discrimination, market distortion, unfair competition, lack of staffing and resources, or the catastrophic financial impact to small Scottish businesses this scheme will inflict.

“With just two days to go before commencement we have had no sight of the regulations, the guidance, the business regulatory impact assessment, the equality impact assessment, or any evidence at all for why such a scheme is required, proportionate, or lawful."

Thompson also questions the Scottish Government's decision to push ahead with the scheme given the recent downward trajectory of Covid-19 cases across Scotland.

Yesterday just 2,370 new infections were identified, compared to a spike in August when daily cases reached more than 7,000 a day. 

“With Covid cases falling rapidly, and the First Minister acknowledging that businesses are already playing their part in keeping customers and workers safe the question remains why the Scottish Government believes Covid passports are necessary,” he adds.

Related topics: Business & Legislation

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