By Jenness Mitchell & Ryan Maher
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar has said his party will oppose the Scottish Government’s vaccine passport plans for nightclubs and large events.
MSPs are due to vote on Nicola Sturgeon’s vaccine certification proposals on Thursday, with the Liberal Democrats also expected to oppose them.
Speaking to STV News, Sarwar said: “Scottish Labour will not support Covid passports.
“That’s not an opposition for opposition’s sake – we have supported the government throughout this pandemic when we thought it was the right thing to do.
“It’s also not an ideological opposition to Covid passports.
“But for us it’s about what works and what’s going to make a meaningful difference, and I think this will just add a layer of bureaucracy.
“It risks increasing vaccine hesitancy, and instead I think we should be putting our focus on targeting our resources towards those low-uptake groups and trying to encourage people to get the vaccine as well as strengthening the Test and Protect system, which frankly hasn’t been up to scratch in recent weeks.”
Earlier this week, the First Minister said she wanted to introduce the scheme “quickly” in response to surging Covid-19 infections, warning they could rise to 10,000 a day.
Ministers said the recent spike in cases means the scheme is needed in order to prevent more widespread restrictions.
From Friday, Scots have been able to download a QR code of proof of vaccination and a mobile app is planned for later this month.
Sturgeon has said all of her government, including newly-appointed Green ministers Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater, will be bound by collective responsibility to back the plans.
Sarwar said: “What I fear is that this is an attempt by the government to look like it’s [in] control of a virus that’s out of control.
“I just don’t believe that it’s the right answer at this difficult time, and I don’t believe it’s going to work.
“I think it’s going to add a layer of bureaucracy and challenge rather than actually targeting the real issue here, which is trying to encourage greater vaccine uptake amongst low-uptake groups and fixing Test and Protect.
“Testing is what’s more important because even if you have the vaccine, you can still spread the virus and you can still get the virus.
“So making sure people are negative going into events is probably a much more interesting thing to explore, or a more crucial thing to explore, rather than vaccine passports.”
The Scottish Labour leader said the focus right now should be on the greater use of walk-in clinics, mobile vaccination units in those “harder to reach areas”, as well as at schools, colleges and universities and outside large-scale events.
Sarwar added: “But also, we know who hasn’t been vaccinated. So, in those low-uptake areas we should be going door-to-door to try and encourage and persuade people to get the vaccine rather than risking entrenching vaccine hesitancy, which I fear Covid passports may do.”
The Scottish Liberal Democrats have also called on the Greens to join them in opposing the plans.
Lib Dem MSP Willie Rennie said: “If Patrick Harvie doesn’t stand up to the SNP on this important issue he will be pushed around for the rest of the parliament.
“The coalition government is crossing a line.
“To move from the state encouraging people to get vaccinated to compelling them to do so is a major step.
“The IT system can’t cope with the current demand for vaccine passports for foreign travel so I can’t see how it will cope with this massive increase in demand.”
A spokesman for the Scottish Greens said: “Green MSPs have expressed reservations about the use of Covid vaccine certification but recognise the need for urgent action to address the surge in case numbers.”