JOHN Swinney has insisted the Scottish Government has “exactly the same position” on vaccine passports as Boris Johnson’s administration – stressing “the circumstances have arisen here” to roll out the policy.
Vaccine certification will be required in Scotland from October 1 to gain access to nightclubs and certain large-scale events and UK ministers had ruled out the policy being brought forward south of the border.
This led to further criticism of the Scottish Government’s plans – but UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid told MPs this afternoon that vaccine passports are still being held “in reserve” as part of his ‘plan B’ moving into the winter, if needed.
Scotland’s Deputy First Minister told MSPs that Scotland and the rest of the UK is aligned in its position with vaccine passports, highlighting that high levels of infection in Scotland is justification for pressing ahead with the plans.
Responding to a question in Holyrood from Conservative MSP Graham Simpson, Mr Swinney said: “Vaccine certificates have a role to play as part of the wider package of measures. They add a further layer or protection in certain higher-risk settings.
“We propose a very limited scheme to allow businesses to remain open and prevent further restrictions as we head into autumn and winter.”
The Deputy First Minister said the announcement by the UK Government after “a very confused 48 hours from the UK Government” on vaccine certification is “exactly the situation we face”.
He added: “We’ve been open with parliament.
“It’s very obvious that we’ve got a very significant level of caseloads just now which is putting huge pressure on the National Health Service – hence, our rationale for bringing forward mandatory vaccine-only Covid status and certification scheme.”
But Mr Simpson said the difference between both governments’ policy is “the Scottish Government has actually set a date for introducing this and the UK Government hasn’t – it said ‘if circumstances arise’”.
He added: “There is a big, big difference there and the Deputy First Minister knows it.”
But Mr Swinney insisted “the circumstances have arisen here” to roll out the policy.
He said: “Our decision-making is based on the circumstances. We have a very high prevalence of Covid and it’s driving hospital admissions.”
Mr Simpson pressed Mr Swinney over the lack of detail about the policy still to be ironed out, despite the fact it will be launched in just a couple of weeks’ time.
He said: “It’s been almost two weeks since the First Minister announced the plan for vaccine certification.
“The Health Secretary again said yesterday they were still working on the definition of a nightclub.
“Does the Deputy First Minister see how ridiculous it is that this scheme is going to come into force in a matter of weeks and the Government still can’t provide any clarity on key questions surrounding its implementation?”
Mr Swinney told MSPs that “the Government is working with the nighttime industries association to be certain about the details of that definition” of a nightclub, adding the discussions are to “ensure that we address any unintended consequences”.