Nicola Sturgeon has again refused to back down over the SNP’s shambolic vaccine passport scheme, despite mounting business and opposition criticism.
Under pressure from Scottish Conservative Leader Douglas Ross, the First Minister conceded she didn’t know what consultation the government had undertaken over a key regulation.
At First Minister’s Questions, Douglas Ross criticised the “anti-business” SNP for being the only government in Europe to run a scheme that relies purely on vaccination status.
Scottish Government evidence submitted to a Scottish Parliament committee for debate on Thursday said “Scotland will be the only European country that will adopt a vaccine-only certificate scheme with no option to provide a negative PCR test or antigen test result or proof of recovery from a previous Covid-19 infection.”
Numerous business groups and the Scottish Human Rights Commission have criticised aspects of the SNP’s vaccine passport scheme.
The Scottish Conservatives launched a last-ditch bid to scrap the scheme with a vote in the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday, while a legal challenge from businesses was stopped on Thursday.
The Scottish Government has previously said the Covid vaccine passport app would be available to download from Thursday, yet it was still not available as of Thursday afternoon, yet another SNP failure to add to the litany of nationalist incompetence.
At the Scottish Parliament Covid committee on Thursday morning, a floundering John Swinney was also unable to say what the specific criteria would be for ending the vaccine passport scheme.
Scottish Conservative Leader Douglas Ross said: “It shows how badly the SNP Government has worked with businesses that they faced a legal challenge to this shambolic scheme just hours before it came into force. Everything about the SNP’s vaccine passport scheme has been left to the last minute. Guidance is still being published and the government’s flimsy evidence case for this policy only appeared before the Scottish Parliament a day before the scheme goes live."
“The app was supposed to be downloadable from Thursday but with hours to go until the scheme begins, there is no sign of it. At the football this weekend, thousands of people will need to go through vaccine passport checks in a very short space of time - without the SNP developing a public information campaign to inform them of the scheme."
“This anti-business SNP Government is the only one in Europe forcing these higher costs onto companies and forcing such restrictive rules onto the public. No other government in Europe is running a scheme that relies purely on vaccination status and bans people from venues unless they can produce official paperwork."
“Nicola Sturgeon wants independence in Europe and she’s got it with this botched policy. The First Minister is completely alone in pursuing this shambles of a scheme – and she doesn’t even know key regulations of it herself. Neither the First Minister or Deputy First Minister could say how or when this scheme could come to an end."
“This botched policy will damage businesses and affect people across Scotland – but the SNP seem to be making it up as they go along. When even Nicola Sturgeon is clueless about her own regulations, this looks like a complete farce to everyone in the real world.”
Quotes from some of the many groups criticising the vaccine passport scheme are below:
The Scottish Chambers of Commerce was critical of the scheme, saying thousands of businesses would be caught up in the scheme. Liz Cameron, the Scottish Chambers of Commerce chief executive, said: ‘We have made it clear that the practical application of what is being asked is not workable in the timelines being proposed. Scotland's economy remains fragile, and many businesses remain in survival mode - there is no doubt that vaccine certifications will serve as an economic detriment’. (BBC, 22 September 2021, link).
Liz Cameron, chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said that the SNP’s definition of a nightclub ‘goes well beyond what was initially proposed’. She said: ‘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 the October 1 . . . what is being asked is not workable in the timelines being proposed’. (The Times, 22 September 2021, link).
Gavin Stevenson of the Night Time Industries Association Scotland has warned the ‘nightclub definition’ will affect 2,000 premises: He said: ‘It is not a definition of just nightclubs because it includes about 2,000 pubs and bars across Scotland in addition to the 100 nightclubs that are actual nightclubs. It would be fair to say that it has not in any way been communicated well by the Scottish government with only nine days to go until this policy is implemented’. (BBC, 22 September 2021, link).
Colin Wilkinson, managing director of the Scottish Licensed Trade Association, said the proposals were a ‘threat hanging over the whole of the hospitality industry’. He added: ‘Although the suggestion is that the wider hospitality industry will not be affected should the Scottish Government agree to introduction of ‘Covid passports’ next week, it is a most unwelcome development for the licensed trade in general. Where is the evidence that this is required for nightclubs – and what is a nightclub?’. (The Scotsman, 1 September 2021, link).
Barry McCulloch, from the Federation of Small Businesses, said business owners were ‘concerned’. He said: ‘Many business owners are concerned about the prospect of future restrictions and lockdowns. And while this is the case it is difficult for businesses to consider the wider conversation on economic recovery when they’re in survival mode’. (Official Report, Economy and Fair Work Committee, 1 September 2021, link) .
The Scottish Beer & Pub Association criticised the definition of a nightclub: They said: ‘It goes far beyond what any reasonable person would consider to be a nightclub and could capture many pubs and bars. We urge the First Minister and the Scottish Government to look at this again’. (The Scotsman, 21st September 2021, link)
The Scottish Hospitality Group said venues designated as ‘nightclubs’ are having problems filling vacancies due to fears over problems implementing the passport scheme. Spokesman Stephen Montgomery said: ‘We already have an issue in recruiting. Our main priority is getting somebody to serve customers and with four days to go [until vaccine passports are implemented], it is as an absolute nightmare. This is putting so much stress and strain on business operators’. (The Scotsman, 28 September 2021, link).
Judith Robertson from the Scottish Human Rights Commission has said the case for vaccine passports has not been made: She said: ‘From our perspective that case has not been made at the moment or if it has, it is not in the public domain and that is one of the key aspects in relation to those human rights considerations that the evidence upon which decisions are being made, be placed into the public domain, so that not only the basis on which decisions are being made is clear, but that can be interrogated by a wider element of the population’. (The Scotsman, 23 September 2021, link).