NICOLA Sturgeon has been warned her vaccine passport proposals could hand businesses “yet another layer of administrative burden” as traders have set out a host of key issues they want answers to.
On Wednesday, the First Minister revealed she intended to roll out vaccine certification or passports for nightclubs, unseated indoor events with more than 500 people, unseated outdoor events will more than 4,000 people and any event with ana attendance more than 10,000 people.
The Scottish Government currently has no plans to introduce certification for the wider hospitality industry but this will be kept under review over the autumn and winter months.
Liz Cameron, chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, has penned a letter to Ms Sturgeon, warning that firms “continue to operate in survival mode”, adding that the “economic recovery is fragile and the long-term viability of many businesses and jobs remains in the balance”.
Ms Cameron has raised alarm with the First Minister that “instead of rebuilding consumer confidence, frequent announcements around potential return of restrictions or implementation of vaccine certificates, is proving damaging and costly to business and consumer confidence”.
She added: “With many lifeline business support measures, such as furlough, coming to and end in only a matter of weeks, mounting business debt and growing supply chain issues, businesses are deeply concerned about increasing costs and administrative burdens exacerbating an already delicate situation.”
Turning to the vaccine passport proposals, Ms Cameron added: “Businesses are concerned that vaccination certification would add yet another layer of administrative burden to sectors that have already been amongst the hardest hit.
“They have also raised the additional burdens on consumers and their confidence at a time when sectors are working hard to safely attract customers back.”
She has also told Ms Sturgeon that businesses “have raised concerns over the pace at which certification are to be deployed” adding that without clarity, “this measure will be viewed as an additional economic deterrent and runs the risk of making it more difficult for these sectors to restart and recover”.
Ms Cameron has also called for “the publication of specific evidence and modelling which demonstrates how vaccine certifications will reduce transmission”.
The First Minister has stressed that details of the policy will be set out ahead of a Holyrood debate next week.
But Ms Cameron has warned businesses “have expressed anxiety and uncertainty around areas such as enforcement and monitoring” as well as “confusion over the definitions of which businesses the certifications will apply to”.
The Scottish Chambers of Commerce chief has also asked the First Minister for clarity that staff that work in the settings where vaccine passports will be required will be exempt from obtaining certification.
Ms Cameron has also called for “ethical and moral issues” around the vaccine passports being used to encourage “specific groups such as younger people” to be protected from the virus.
She has also claimed that the success of the vaccine rollout means “there appears to be little risk of the NHS becoming overwhelmed with Covid-19 cases” and highlighted that businesses have welcomed the removal of most restrictions in Scotland.
But Ms Cameron has warned that “many will see the introduction of vaccine certificates as effectively a restriction in itself”.
Speaking after send her letter to the First Minister, she added: “The prospect of vaccine certification requirements is causing Scotland’s businesses a great level of stress and anxiety and it’s right that this issue will be debated fully in Parliament next week.
“Scotland’s businesses are continuing to go above and beyond what is legally required of them to help halt transmission and keep Covid-19 case numbers to a minimum.
“Businesses operating in the events, nightclub and hospitality sectors urgently need clarity on where vaccine certifications could be required.
“Scotland’s economy is now finally beginning to recover, however the fact remains that many businesses continue to operate in survival mode, and the prospect of economic deterrents such as vaccine certificates, could prove damaging to business and consumer confidence.”
The First Minister has warned that “nobody wants any form of restrictions, but, while we have this virus, we have to determine the least restrictive way of keeping people safe”, adding that ministers “have been considering the issue carefully”.
She said: “We are still in the grip of a pandemic. The virus is highly infectious and doing nothing over the next period is therefore not an option. We have to stem transmission and the question therefore becomes how we do that in the least restrictive and most proportionate way.
“This is a proportionate step, and I hope that it will be a time-limited step. It will be very limited in terms of its application to settings.
“Vaccine certification schemes are operating in many countries—in Ireland, for example, which is the closest to us—on a much wider-ranging basis than I set out yesterday. I genuinely wish that we were not in this position, but we are; therefore, we have to think about every proportionate measure that we can take to protect people.”