Vaccine passports planned for entry to clubs and large events in Scotland

Scotland is to introduce vaccine passports for nightclubs and some music festivals and football matches as part of ongoing efforts to curb the spread of coronavirus.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the move – which has to be confirmed in a Holyrood vote next week – is “appropriate” as cases continue to surge.

She announced the plans as she warned it is “by no means impossible” that Scotland could see 10,000 new infections a day.

The latest data shows 6,170 new cases of Covid-19 were recorded in Scotland in the past 24 hours and Ms Sturgeon continued to urge people to get vaccinated and follow existing guidelines.

But she also revealed the Scottish Government will move “quickly” to bring in the new vaccination certification scheme.

UKHospitality’s executive director for Scotland, Leon Thompson, said with nightclubs north of the border only having been allowed to reopen on August 9, the move would “cause dismay amongst businesses which have only recently been able to reopen”.

He said: “The fact that there has been no attempt to engage with the sector ahead of this announcement is extremely concerning.

“Nightclubs and event organisers will be on the frontline of implementing this policy and representatives need an opportunity to ask questions of the Scottish Government’s plans before they are put to the Scottish Parliament for approval.”

And he added: “Whilst the introduction of certification is envisaged as limited for now, if extended, the impact on wider hospitality could be immense.”

He spoke out after Ms Sturgeon, in a statement to the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday, said the “limited use of vaccine certification could help to control the spread of the virus, as we head into the autumn and winter”.

The scheme will apply 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.

She told MSPs the Government is “clear” that proof of vaccination should not be needed “for any key services or in settings where people have no choice over attendance – for example, public transport, education, access to medical services or shops”.

She added that while ministers are not currently applying the scheme to the hospitality industry as a whole, this will be kept under review.

Emma Clarkin, chief executive of the Scottish Beer and Pub Association, warned introducing vaccine passports for pubs could mean “thousands of businesses not surviving to the end of the year”.

The Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA) called the plans a “a “threat hanging over the whole of the hospitality industry”.

Managing director Colin Wilkinson said he would “await the finer details” of the scheme, adding: “What is a nightclub?

“With a wide variety of hybrid premises in the Scottish licensed trade market, how is this defined? Many pubs, bars and hotels are larger than nightclubs and offer various entertainments.

“Consultation with the industry before this announcement was made would have been helpful.

Ms Sturgeon said: “Many of the events and venues that are covered by the certification scheme are important – they matter to our economy, and to our cultural and social life.

“That’s why we want to enable them to stay open safely.

“But they are not essential services. And the nature of them, which involves bringing many people together in relatively small areas, does mean that despite their very best efforts, they can contribute significantly to the spread of the virus.

“By ensuring that people entering these settings are fully vaccinated, we would be taking a proportionate step to help make these settings safer for everyone attending and, by extension, for all of us.”

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

From Friday, people in Scotland will be able to download a QR code showing their vaccination status.

Children and people with certain medical conditions who cannot be vaccinated will be exempt from the scheme, the First Minister said.

She revealed the certification plan as she described the recent sharp rise in Covid infections in Scotland as “extremely concerning”.

The number of new cases is now 80% higher than last week and five times higher than four weeks ago, the First Minister said.

Ms Sturgeon said: “There is no doubt that this underlines the fact that the Delta variant is significantly more transmissible than previous strains.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton branded the vaccine passports proposal “illiberal”.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton raised concerns about the move (Jane Barlow/PA)
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton raised concerns about the move (Jane Barlow/PA)

He said his party has “real concerns” about the introduction of “what some have described as medical ID cards”.

He added: “People will now be compelled both to receive medical treatment and then to provide their personal data in order to access certain freedoms.”

He raised concerns about civil liberties and demanded to know if vaccine certification would be “here to stay if we have to live with Covid”.

Ms Sturgeon told him that ministers have to “consider any tools that can help us reduce the harm of Covid without the need to impose wider and more blanket restrictions on people’s way of life”.

She added: “Using vaccine certification in a very limited way I think can help us do that.”