First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced today (23 November) that 'it would not be proportionate' to expand the scheme to more licensed hospitality venues such as restaurants and pubs at this stage.
The decision has been welcomed by trade body UKHospitality Scotland, with executive director Leon Thompson describing it as 'very good news' that 'provides some respite for businesses working hard to maximise trade across the festive period'.
One change to the current 'vaccine passport' system is that from 6 December people will be allowed to present a negative test rather than proof of two jabs to enter venues that are already covered by the scheme, bringing Scotland's scheme into line with the NHS Covid Pass policy in Wales.
Sturgeon said: "When we first launched the scheme, one of its primary objectives was to help drive up vaccination rates. This is still important, obviously, but actual and projected uptake rates mean we judge it possible now to include testing.
"Doing so will also ensure that the scheme remains proportionate, and help our wider efforts to stem transmission through greater use of [lateral flow] tests more generally."
Vaccine certificates are currently 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.
Fears that the scheme would be extended to other hospitality settings have been growing since Deputy First Minister John Swinney said earlier this month that the rules may need to be tightened in order to prevent another lockdown.
Commenting on today’s announcement, Thompson said:
“The First Minister’s announcement that Covid 'vaccine passports' will not be extended comes as welcome relief to hospitality businesses. The Scottish Government has listened and responded to the overwhelming evidence presented, which clearly demonstrates the damaging impact any extension of the scheme would have on our fragile sector. This is very good news and provides some respite for businesses working hard to maximise trade across the festive period.
“We all have our part to play in reducing the spread of Covid. Hospitality will continue to do its bit, keeping customers and workers safe, with many operators going above and beyond the Scottish Government’s baseline measures.
“The acceptance of a negative lateral flow test may help some businesses currently covered by the scheme. It remains to be seen what it will bring to those hospitality businesses in the late-night economy.
"UKHospitality Scotland will continue to work to ensure that vaccination passports are not expanded in the future and to remove the burden they impose on businesses currently covered by them.”