Scottish hospitality firms concerned about lack of detail on Covid passports

Businesses are still in the dark about how the Scottish Government’s Covid passports will work, the head of UK Hospitality Scotland has warned.

Proof of double vaccination would be required to allow people entry to nightclubs and large events under plans unveiled by the Scottish Government last week.

But details of how the system will work in practice remain unclear, with the First Minister planning to impose the requirement by the end of September.

The Scottish Government is expected to release more information about its plans ahead of a vote to approve the measures at Holyrood on Thursday afternoon.

Speaking on the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland programme, the executive director of UK Hospitality Scotland Leon Thompson said there was a lack of clarity about what the Covid passport plans would entail.

He said: “We’re very concerned about the proposals and the vote that’s going ahead today.

“We weren’t so consulted about this ahead of the First Minister’s statement last week, we had some very rushed and hurried conversations with officials over the last few days.

“We still have no real information on how the Scottish Government plans to introduce the passport scheme and what will actually be required of venues, nightclubs, major events and so on.

“The other challenge that we have is defining nightclubs.

“The First Minister is very keen to see a very tight introduction of the vaccine certifications but already in the discussions we’re beginning to see this spilling over into larger bars, potentially, and other hospitality settings with perhaps live music and potentially dancing.”

Scottish Politics Coronavirus Holyrood Scottish Parliament Covid 19
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced nightclubs and large events will require people to show proof of vaccination (Fraser Bremner/Scottish Daily Mail/PA)

Mr Thompson also said the hospitality sector was experiencing “chronic staff shortages” and may not be able to cope if the new certificate system required additional staffing.

“Recruitment is really posing a major challenge so if businesses do need to recruit, that is going to be potentially a major stumbling block for them,” he said.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced plans to introduce the certification scheme in response to rising coronavirus cases and said she hoped it would encourage more people to get vaccinated.

Under the government plans, vaccine passports will be required for entry to clubs as well as unseated indoor live events with more than 500 people in the audience.

It will also apply to unseated outdoor events with more than 4,000 in the audience, and at any event with more than 10,000 in attendance.

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said a certification scheme is necessary for three main reasons.

He told the PA news agency: “I think it will help to reduce transmission particularly in high-risk settings, secondly I think it acts as an alternative to having to close down those high risk settings and that’s exceptionally important.

“We don’t want to reimpose restrictions, we can never rule that out but having a certification scheme I think helps in that regard and thirdly we also want to increase the vaccine uptake, particularly amongst a younger age cohort.

“Certification schemes are the norm in Europe you see them in many many countries, governments, parties of all political persuasions bringing them in.

“What we’re doing is bringing them in in a very very limited setting so I’m very confident parliament will pass the proposals, I would just ask people to look at it with an open mind and look, a certification scheme is one tool but we’ve got to continue to do the baseline measures that we currently have in place too.”

Ms Sturgeon said the Scottish Government is not currently considering introducing vaccine certification for the hospitality industry as a whole, though this will be kept under review.

A QR code showing proof of vaccination will initially be available for people to download before a dedicated app is completed by the end of the month, Ms Sturgeon said.

The Scottish Conservatives, Scottish Labour and the Scottish Liberal Democrats have all expressed opposition to the vaccine passport proposals, with Tory leader Douglas branding the measures an “absolute sham”.

He criticised the Government’s decision to release details of the plans “just hours before Parliament is expected to vote” and said: “We need specifics but we don’t have them.

“We don’t know how the scheme will be administered or enforced. We don’t know if the data concerns have been fixed.

“We don’t know if the SNP will rule out extending them indefinitely or rolling them out to further venues at short notice.”

Labour leader Anas Sarwar said the party had “practical concerns” and that there has only been “limited engagement with businesses about the details of the programme and how it will actually work in practice”.

Alex Cole-Hamilton, the new Lib Dem leader, has urged the government to ditch plans for coronavirus vaccine passports and focus instead on an emergency recruitment campaign to bolster the “broken” contact tracing system.