Scotland to introduce vaccine passports from October after MSPs back plans

VACCINE passports for nightclubs and large events will be introduced in Scotland from the beginning of October after controversial plans were rubber-stamped by MSPs.

It comes despite critics insisting the proposals are “riddled with holes”, with an “astounding” lack of detail on how the scheme will operate. 

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar earlier told Nicola Sturgeon that many of the businesses affected will have cocktail lists longer than the document setting out the plan, which was only published hours before the vote.

MSPs backed the move by 68 votes to 55, with the SNP and its power-sharing partners in the Greens defeating Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Tories.

It means people in Scotland will need to be fully vaccinated to enter events such as nightclubs, music festivals and some football matches.

The measure comes into effect on Friday, October 1, and is aimed at reducing risk while helping to keep venues open. 

It is hoped it will also boost uptake, particularly among younger people.

A Scottish Government paper setting out the scheme said a legal obligation will be imposed on businesses to “take all reasonable measures” to restrict entry.

Officials are also considering whether to introduce offences for individuals who misuse certificates. 

However, critics say the plan lacks detail, with officials still working out how to define a “nightclub”.

Meanwhile, nightclub bosses said it would further “cripple” the industry.

Scottish Conservative Leader Douglas Ross said: “The SNP’s plan is riddled with holes. The flaws are considerable and the lack of detail is astounding.

“The SNP Government has failed to bring opposition parties or the public onboard with these plans. They didn’t even bother to make the effort.

“At the last minute, all we got was a subpar pamphlet that can be summed up in three words – ask again later.

“Businesses are being chucked under the bus by these plans. There seems to be no financial support or assistance available to help them administer and enforce this policy. It will hit them with considerable costs – but the SNP don’t even know how much.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said his party is “fundamentally opposed to the introduction of mandatory vaccine certification on grounds both of ideology and of practicality”.  

He added: “Practical problems seem to be endless and will affect virtually everyone.

“Business owners are left in the dark and will have to wait until the very last minute to discover whether they will have to ask for a Covid ID to their patrons.

“The system does not specify how it will handle those who received one or both doses outside Scotland, nor how it will handle the booster programme. It only leaves questions and confusion.”

Earlier, during First Minister’s Questions in Holyrood, Mr Sarwar said many affected businesses will have cocktail lists longer than the details presented to MSPs.

Responding, Ms Sturgeon said clever quips “might sound good in a student union but when you’re actually trying to deal with a global pandemic it is more important that you have the solutions that help to keep people safe”.

She said vaccination reduces the risk of getting the virus, but no single measure would eradicate risk.

The First Minister said vaccine passports are “part of the solution” and many other countries have already introduced them.

Following the Holyrood vote, Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said: “We must do all we can to stem the rise in cases and vaccine certification will form part of a range measures which can help us to do this.

“It will only be used in certain higher risk settings and we hope this will allow businesses to remain open and prevent any further restrictions as we head into autumn and winter.

“We do not want to re-impose any of the restrictions that have been in place for much of this year as we all know how much harm they have caused to businesses, to education and to people’s general well-being. But we must stem the rise in cases.”

Vaccine passports will apply to nightclubs, adult entertainment venues, live unseated indoor events of 500 people or more, live unseated outdoor events with more than 4,000 in the audience and all events with more than 10,000 attending. 

Under 18s and adults who are ineligible for vaccination will be exempt.

There are currently no plans to introduce certification for the wider hospitality industry but this will be kept under review over the autumn and winter months.

The new scheme will work through QR codes. From the end of the month, Scots will be able to use the NHS Scotland Covid Status app to access venues. 

This will include a person’s vaccination record in line with the requirements for international travel. The app screen shows a QR code for each vaccination.

Those unable to use the app will be able to request a “secure un-editable paper record of vaccination, with enhanced security features such as thermodynamic ink to prevent forgery”. This will also have a QR code.

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