Businesses say vaccine passports still ‘unworkable’
Liz Cameron: ‘we ask again for a rethink’ (pic: Terry Murden)
Angry businesses say the First Minister is expecting them to implement an “unworkable” vaccine passport scheme that is still lacking in details just a week and a half before it is introduced.
Nicola Sturgeon today outlined which venues would require proof that those attending had received two doses of the vaccine when the scheme kicks in at 5am on 1 October for those over the age of 18.
Venues include live events and nightclubs and Ms Sturgeon said the government has drawn up a working definition of the latter as being a venue which is open between midnight and 5am, serving alcohol, and which has a designated area for dancing and provides live or recorded music for this purpose.
Ms Sturgeon appealed to venues to apply “common sense” when checking individuals’ certification and added that spot-checks will be allowed at larger events, with organisers expected to do a “reasonable number”.
But Liz Cameron, chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said the proposals “go well beyond what was initially proposed” by including more establishments and that theyleave businesses having to pick up the cost and implement the scheme in just a few days time.
Nicola Sturgeon: need for ‘common sense’
“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,” she said.
“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 the 1 October.
“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.
“Businesses will not be prepared and ready for the 1 October and we ask again for a rethink.”
UKHospitality’s executive director for Scotland, Leon Thompson, added: “The definition of a nightclub, devised by Scottish Government officials and approved by ministers, will capture swathes of Scotland’s night time economy.
“Not sticking to the stated aim of vaccine certification for nightclubs has brought the potential for businesses serving alcohol after midnight within scope.
“With only days until vaccine passports come into force and no guidance or public information available – nor any assessment on business or equality impacts in place-business confidence has once more been shattered, whilst the public is left in the dark on what they need to do in order to enjoy a night out with friends.”
Ms Sturgeon told MSPs that Covid-19 cases had fallen in Scotland in recent weeks, but warned that “the position remains fragile” with the NHS under “sustained pressure”.
The vaccine passport will help reduce transmission of the virus and could encourage uptake of vaccines to help keep venues like nightclubs open for business, she said.
The scheme applies to:
- Nightclubs and adult entertainment venues
- Unseated indoor live events, with more than 500 people in the audience
- Unseated outdoor live events, with more than 4,000 people in the audience
- Any event, of any nature, which has more than 10,000 people in attendance
Certificates will be displayed via an app, which will be available for download from 30 September, while venue staff will either scan this using another app or visually check the QR code shown,
Ms Sturgeon said a venue which has a dance floor would not have to check people coming in for a pub lunch in the afternoon, but said “it would be reasonable” to check customers who arrive later in the evening.
The First Minister added: “A pragmatic approach will be encouraged, so that businesses can make sensible judgements.”
While clubs and smaller events will be expected to inspect the certificates of all customers, the organisers of larger events will have to carry out a “reasonable number” of checks.
Football chiefs have previously said spot-checks would be “the only practical reality” when dealing with matches involving tens of thousands of fans, warning of lengthy queues and potential for disorder if every attendee was checked.
Ms Sturgeon said there had been talks with football clubs and licensed trade organisations, saying their feedback had been “very helpful”.
Labour, Conservative and LibDem MSPs voted against the plans which were approved by the SNP-Green administration.
Scottish Conservative health spokesman Sandesh Gulhane said: “The SNP government vaccine passport scheme comes into force next week, and the first minister is still finalising guidance and businesses are worried about the impact it will have on them.
“Despite promises of a reset, it is clear that jobs and businesses are still not the priority of this government.”
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said detail had been provided “at long last”, but the government was still falling short.
He said: “There are still big gaps in the detail, still limited engagement with businesses affected, and limited evidence published of the difference it will make.”