An industry body representing bar and nightclub bosses has launched a legal challenge over the Scottish Government’s Covid passport scheme.
The NTIA (Night Time Industries Association) said it was ‘disappointed’ that the scheme will go ahead.
It means that proof of a Covid-19 vaccination will be required when seeking to enter a nightclub or adult entertainment venue, or to attend large-scale events.
The vaccine certification scheme will come into effect from 5am on Friday, October 1.
But, the NTIA, has hit out at a lack of consultation with the Scottish Government over the scheme, which was approved by MSPs at Holyrood earlier this month.
In a statement, the industry body said: “The NTIA is disappointed to note that the First minister has now confirmed that vaccine passports are proceeding.
“The NTIA have, along with the other sectoral trade bodies, been engaged in dialogue with government over the last three weeks, and whilst unfortunately that dialogue has not in any way resembled a meaningful consultation between government and the sector, we remain ready to work with Scottish Government should they choose to take on board the sector’s concerns and work collaboratively to find a better and more deliverable solution.
“This vaccine passport scheme as currently proposed raises serious issues with definition, market distortion, discrimination, resource allocation and economic impact amongst others, and had Scottish Government been prepared to work with sectoral experts in the earliest stages of policy formulation some of these deep rooted problems may have been avoidable.”
The NTIA announced it has instructed its legal team to commence proceedings against the government.
They said: “It is also clear to us that the policy as currently proposed is neither proportionate, nor represents the lowest level of intervention possible to achieve the public health imperative, and it is therefore likely to be unlawful.
“Regrettably then, and given the serious flaws in the policy as proposed, we have now instructed our legal team to commence proceedings against the Scottish Government with a legal challenge to vaccination passports.”
The body however said that it remains “willing” to work with the Scottish Government on a policy.
They wrote: “We had hoped that the recent evidence of rapidly falling cases might provide government with the incentive to look again and take the sector’s concerns into account.
“And to engage in meaningful consultation where government and businesses could work together and design solutions that both address our shared goal of reducing the harms from Covid and are also deliverable.
“Unfortunately, this has not happened, however we remain willing to work with Scottish Government on any policy which both achieves our shared goals and also allows businesses to remain economically viable.”
Speaking on a visit to a new research and development centre near Prestwick Airport, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said that the scheme is a “proportionate measure” to help stem transmission of the virus.
She said: “Everything we’re trying to do right now is about keeping the virus under control, so stemming transmission while keeping society and the economy open and operational.
“Nobody wants to go back to lockdown restrictions if we can possibly avoid it.
“That’s why we’re introducing a Covid certification scheme, not something anybody wants to do, but a proportionate measure that will help stem transmission while keeping businesses like nightclubs and big events operational.”
“Scottish businesses can no longer afford to take the SNP’s punishing policies lying down.”Murdo Fraser, Scottish Conservative MSP
Scottish Conservative Covid recovery spokesman, Murdo Fraser urged the SNP to drop its plans for the scheme.
“The Night Time Industries Association’s legal challenge to vaccine passports is a justified response to what is an extreme, damaging and profoundly unfair scheme,” he said.
“The NTIA has had no choice but to take the SNP Government to court, after their concerns have been repeatedly and deliberately ignored by the Government.
“The hospitality industry has been warning of the devastating effects of the SNP’s plans for weeks. They have done everything in their power to have their concerns heard and yet the SNP has failed to engage in any kind of meaningful consultation with Scottish businesses.”
Fraser continued: “Scottish businesses can no longer afford to take the SNP’s punishing policies lying down.
“This legal action is testament to the fact that many businesses will be disproportionately and unjustifiably harmed by the SNP’s current schemes.
“I urge the SNP Government to drop these plans now, before Scotland’s economic recovery is damaged even further.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton also urged the Government to “cut their losses” and ditch the “wasteful scheme”.
He said: “Rather than recognise that Covid ID cards are not an effective or proportionate solution, the Scottish Government have expanded the scope of the policy sucking in a host of venues who did not expect to be included.
“No wonder the night time industry is in uproar. They’re being treated as disposable by the Government.
“It’s a shame that the willingness of the industry to work on jointly acceptable solutions is not matched by SNP ministers. Hopefully this legal action will turn out to be last orders for this illiberal Covid ID card scheme.”
The Lib Dem MSP added: “The Scottish Government should cut their losses and plough the resources that are going into this wasteful scheme into fixing our testing and tracing operation and ringing all of those who have yet to have two doses of the vaccine to encourage them to book an appointment.”
Scottish Labour’s finance and economy spokesperson Daniel Johnson said: “This plunges the SNP’s misguided vaccine passport scheme into yet more chaos.
“SNP ministers have provided no impact assessment, no details on what business will need to do or even how the criteria will apply with only days before these measures will be brought in.
“It is no wonder trade bodies feel forced to challenge the government in the courts.