Vaccine passport alert

Swinney warned against tightening Covid rules

John Swinney delivers Budget

John Swinney has spoken of a strengthening measures to fight Covid

Scottish Chambers leader Liz Cameron has warned that tightening Covid restrictions and extending the vaccine passport to more venues would be a “massive step backwards” for the economy.

Ms Cameron issued her concerns after Deputy First Minister John Swinney’s statement to Parliament, in which he indicated that the Scottish Government could impose new measures.

These could include an extension of the vaccine passport scheme to more hospitality and leisure venues, more home working, and a requirement that face coverings should be used in more settings.

Mr Swinney told MSPs that the range of venues required to check vaccine status could be expanded in an attempt to head off a “dangerous” situation over the winter – and in particular the Christmas period.

He said the country was in a “precarious and unpredictable” position, with case numbers remaining at a “concerningly high level” and “intense pressure” on the NHS.

Any changes will be confirmed at the next review of the restrictions on 16 November.

Opposition parties said Mr Swinney’s “vague” announcement would be of “significant concern” to businesses.

The chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce said: “It’s essential we don’t now take a massive step backwards through the introduction of further economic deterrents, enhanced baseline measures and increasing use of vaccine certification. 

“The Scottish Government must urgently get round the table with businesses to demonstrate the evidence for ramping up restrictions and detail what financial support they will make available for businesses if they choose to do so.

Liz Cameron

Liz Cameron: government is putting return to growth at risk (pic: Terry Murden)

“The positive economic forecasts that projected a return to pre-pandemic levels of growth in Scotland by early next year are all subject to there being no return of restrictions.

“It’s clear that this announcement from the Scottish Government will put this rapid return to growth at risk, create further economic uncertainty and undermine consumer confidence once again.”

On the government encouraging increased home working, she said: “Those businesses which rely on office worker footfall from retail to hospitality and everything in between will be deeply concerned to hear the Scottish Government talking up the prospect of increased home working again.”

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross pressing for clarity about what venues could be affected.

He said: “How can this government take these plans forward when they know the damage the scheme is already doing to Scottish businesses, and the impact it is having on people’s jobs?

“Exactly which venues will be impacted by this change? This only brings more uncertainty for businesses sat an extremely difficult time – they need to know if they are on the cusp of being hit by added costs and extra hassle.”

Scottish Labour MSP Daniel Johnson questioned whether the government would consider allowing a negative test to be submitted in lieu of proof of vaccination, with the deputy first minister saying this was under consideration.

Scottish Lib Dem leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said there was “no evidence base” for the use of vaccine passports, adding: “They will not save Christmas.”

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