THOUSANDS of hotels, pubs and other businesses risk being caught up in Scotland’s new vaccine passport scheme, industry leaders have warned.
In a damning statement, the Scottish Chambers of Commerce insisted the plans are “not workable in the timelines being proposed”.
It comes after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon outlined a definition of ‘nightclubs’ as she confirmed vaccine passports will be required in such venues from October 1.
Hospitality leaders had warned of confusion over what separates a nightclub from a bar or pub that opens late and plays music.
But Dr Liz Cameron, chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said the Government’s definition will drag in many other businesses.
The Scottish Beer and Pub Association has also raised concerns.
Scotland’s vaccine passport scheme will come into force at 5am on Friday, October 1.
It will see certification required in nightclubs, live indoor unseated events of more than 500 people, live outdoor unseated events of more than 4,000 people, and any event of more than 10,000 people.
Speaking in Holyrood, Ms Sturgeon said: “We have been working in recent days to finalise the definition of nightclubs and similar settings.
“I can confirm that our intention is that certification will be required for any venue that meets all of the following conditions: it is open between midnight and 5am; it serves alcohol after midnight; it provides live or recorded music for dancing; and it has a designated space – which is actually in use – where dancing is permitted.
“Let me stress that certification will be required only if all four of those factors apply.
“Detailed draft guidance will be published ahead of the regulations setting out clearly what each sector needs to do.
“A pragmatic and sensible approach will be taken to each piece of guidance.
“In legal terms, venues will be required to take ‘all reasonable measures’ to implement the scheme – in plain terms, that boils down to using common sense.
“So, for example, a venue that has a dancefloor operating after midnight – and meets the other criteria – will have to operate the certification scheme.
“They won’t need to check people coming in for a pub lunch twelve hours earlier – that wouldn’t be reasonable.
“But by the evening, it would be reasonable to check customers as they arrive.
“That’s what we mean by common sense. A pragmatic approach will be encouraged, so that businesses can make sensible judgements.”
Ms Cameron criticised the plans. She said: “The Scottish Government’s vaccine certification proposals were confusing when they were first brought forward and the proposed scheme as it stands today goes well beyond what was initially proposed.
“The criteria and definition now set out by the Scottish Government will unfortunately, by default, extend to many of our hotels, pubs, major sporting events and other hospitality and tourism businesses.
“Thousands of these businesses will now be caught up in vaccine certification rules, with little time left to understand, plan and implement them before the deadline of October 1.
“Industry associations and businesses have been attending meetings with Government officials in an attempt to identify and resolve issues with the scheme.
“We have made it clear that the practical application of what is being asked is not workable in the timelines being proposed.
“In addition, there are still no details around enforcement and it is becoming clear that the Scottish Government expect businesses to bear the burden of implementation costs, without any financial support whatsoever.
“Scotland’s economy remains fragile, and many businesses remain in survival mode. There is no doubt that vaccine certifications will serve as an economic deterrent.
“We have offered to work with the Government to help design appropriate solutions which will save jobs and save businesses, whilst continuing to encourage as many people as possible to get the vaccine.
“Businesses will not be prepared and ready for October 1 and we ask again for a rethink.”
Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the Scottish Beer and Pub Association, said: “The announcement today by the First Minister will cause concern amongst many operators who previously believed that they would not have to certificate, now falling within scope with this definition.
“It goes far beyond what any reasonable person would consider to be a nightclub and could capture many pubs and bars across the length and breadth of Scotland.
“It is absolutely vital that the accompanying guidance and regulations are published immediately, so that businesses understand whether or not they are in scope, what they can do to remove their businesses from scope, and how this will be properly implemented.
“There are several major operational challenges to implementing this policy and unfortunately some businesses may not be able to be compliant by October 1.
“We urge the First Minister and the Scottish Government to look at this again.”