FMQs: Sturgeon accused of ‘shambolic’ vaccine passport plan

NICOLA Sturgeon has been accused of overseeing “shambolic” and “knee-jerk” plans to introduce vaccine passports for nightclubs and large events in Scotland.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said hospitality groups, football clubs and venues have “no idea” how the scheme will work.

He accused Ms Sturgeon of failing to provide answers on the issue during First Minister’s Questions in Holyrood.

He also quizzed her on whether the new vaccine certification scheme would become permanent.

Mr Ross said: “At the moment, hospitality groups, football clubs and venues have no idea about what infrastructure will be in place or if they’ll get any help to introduce this.

“It’s just another example of the shambolic, last minute, knee-jerk decision-making of this Government.”

It comes after Ms Sturgeon announced plans to introduce vaccine passports for nightclubs and adult entertainment venues, unseated indoor live events with more than 500 people, unseated outdoor live events for more than 4,000 people and any events with more than 10,000 people. 

The move is set to be introduced later this month following a vote in Holyrood next week.

Nightclubs in Scotland only reopened for business on April 9 and the Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA) has already branded the scheme a “most unwelcome development”.

SLTA managing director Colin Wilkinson said: “We are seeing a large spike in infection rates following the general reopening of the economy when a number of sectors fully reopened and Scottish schools have been opened for two weeks, universities and colleges are about to open, but nightclubs alone have been targeted with the possible introduction of a Covid status certification system at this time.”

Mr Ross accused the First Minister of failing to answer questions about what Covid passports will mean for business across Scotland.

During FMQs, he asked what infrastructure will be place, who will administer it and what financial support will be available.

Ms Sturgeon said the Government is engaging with different sectors and will put the detail before Parliament.

She insisted there was a “degree of understanding and pragmatism” from affected sectors about the scheme, citing Geoff Ellis of DF Concerts, which organises the TRNSMT festival in Glasgow, as having said that “the Government are doing all the can to avoid another lockdown, as an industry we all have to support that we all have to do our bit”.

Meanwhile the Scottish Football Supporters Association has stated that if “Covid certificates are what it takes to allow fans to keep supporting their clubs it is better than no fans present”, Ms Sturgeon added.

She said the country faces a “serious situation”, adding: “Is it too much to expect in these serious times that we have a leader of the opposition that can engage properly with the substance of these matters?”

Mr Ross replied: “Is it too much to expect to have a First Minister to answer First Minister’s Questions?”

Ms Sturgeon later called for Mr Ross to “raise his game a little bit from screaming about U-turns and things like that and actually be part of finding the solutions that the country needs right now”.

Earlier, Ms Sturgeon confirmed the two new Green ministers in the Scottish Government will be “bound by collective responsibility under the ministerial code”, meaning they will be expected to back the introduction of passports.

This is despite their party repeatedly raising concerns about Covid certificates.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said his party is “fundamentally opposed to vaccine passports as a matter of principle”.

He said: “The rash introduction of this new system has practical problems too. It’s unclear how this will keep pace with booster jabs, or match vaccination programmes across borders. 

“There is an endless list of questions for hospitality, young people, and every person in Scotland. 

“Perhaps most importantly, for the first time in our lives people will have to present private medical information to access freedoms in our society. 

“The First Minister can offer no assurances about its limit – there’s no timescale and an open door to expansion.” 

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said coronavirus vaccine passports are being introduced in a bid to prevent the reimposition of more widespread restrictions.

He said:  “Ultimately we are bringing this forward because we don’t want to reimpose restrictions, we never have wanted to introduce restrictions, no government wants to restrict people’s behaviours in any shape or way.

“But of course that is always an option we have to consider, particularly if we see the rise in cases we got last week.”

Mr Yousaf told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme that while the sharp rise in cases last week had given ministers “significant concern”, the early indications from this week’s figures suggested “hopefully that the rate of increase is beginning to slow down”.

Appearing before Holyrood’s Covid-19 Recovery Committee, Deputy First Minister John Swinney also said the introduction of vaccine passports aims to “reduce the danger” of fresh restrictions. He said strict rules may have to be reintroduced if the take up of vaccines is not increased. 

The Herald Scotland

The Herald Scotland

The Herald is a Scottish broadsheet newspaper founded in 1783. The Herald is the longest running national newspaper in the world and is the eighth oldest daily paper in the world. The title was simplified from The Glasgow Herald in 1992