Vaccine passports set to be required for nightclubs and large-scale events

Holyrood will vote next week on whether to introduce passports for entry to nightclubs and large-scale live events.

Scots will need vaccine passports in order to enter nightclubs or attend large-scale gatherings, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced on Wednesday.

Addressing the Scottish Parliament, Sturgeon said the Scottish Government considers that a limited use of vaccine certification could help to control the spread of the virus heading into the autumn and winter.

The introduction of the passports is subject to a debate and vote at Holyrood next week and would not come into effect until everyone has been offered two doses of coronavirus vaccine.

They will be required for entry into nightclubs, as well as indoor live events with more than 500 people unseated and outdoor live events with more than 4000 people unseated.

Any event attended by a crowd of more than 10,000 people will also require a vaccine passport for entry.

The First Minister said: “We propose subject to parliamentary agreement that vaccination certification should be introduced later this month – once all adults have had the opportunity to be fully vaccinated for the following events and venues – firstly nightclubs and adult entertainment venues.

“Second, unseated indoor live events with more than 500 people in the audience. Next, unseated outdoor live events with more than 4000 people in the audience and lastly, any event of any nature which has more than 10,000 people in attendance.

“We don’t currently consider it appropriate to introduce certification for the hospitality industry as a whole and we hope that will not be necessary, however we will keep that under review.

“We do not want to reimpose restrictions, even in a limited way. We know only too well how much harm restrictions cause to businesses, young people’s education, and to our overall wellbeing.

“But if that is to be avoided – as I hope it can be – it will take all of us making a conscious and concerted effort again to comply with all the basic mitigations that we know can slow down transmission.”

Sturgeon also told MSPs the number of new cases is 80% higher than last week and five times higher than four weeks ago.

The announcement on vaccine passports comes after Scotland recorded nine more deaths and 6170 new cases of coronavirus in the past 24 hours.

A total of 629 people were in hospital on Tuesday with recently confirmed Covid-19, a rise of 44 overnight. Out of those, 59 patients are in intensive care.

Almost all of Scotland’s remaining Covid-19 restrictions were removed last month but some mitigations remain in place including the wearing of face coverings in some public spaces.

Sturgeon said: “The scale of the increase in recent weeks has been extremely concerning, there is no doubt that this underlines the fact that the Delta variant is significantly more transmissable than previous strains.

“If we were to continue to see cases to rise to 10,000 or more a day, something I hope won’t happen but is by no means impossible, that will have serious consequences.

“A lot of people would fall seriously ill and obviously some people would die.”

Children and people with certain medical conditions will be exempt from requiring a certificate, Sturgeon said.

And people in Scotland will be able to download a QR code showing their vaccine certification from Friday.

“The introduction of vaccine certification for events venues won’t be a measure that many firms will welcome.”

Andrew McRae, Scotland policy chair at the Federation of Small Business

Andrew McRae, Scotland policy chair at the Federation of Small Businesses, said the implementation of passports wouldn’t be welcomed by many companies.

He said: “The introduction of vaccine certification for events venues won’t be a measure that many firms will welcome. But as opposed to the prospect of stricter restrictions, we believe the business community will accept this change.

“The passport system that the Scottish Government proposes to deliver needs to be user-friendly for citizens and businesses. It must help not hinder the businesses that were among the last to open their doors when restrictions were eased.

“Further, there can be no rush to extend where these so-called passports are to be used until we see how the new system works. Lastly, assuming parliamentary approval, it’ll be vitally important for the public to accept these passport rules and for firms to have support from police and regulators as they enforce them.”  

Scottish Labour leader asked for assurances from the Scottish Government that it would consult with the hospitality sector before the plans are formally laid before parliament next week.

He said: “I welcome the news of more mobile vaccination centres but we need to see these rolled out across Scotland, including in our schools. 

“And if vaccine passports are to be introduced, we need the SNP to be willing to work with and support our hard-hit hospitality sector. 

“More restrictions cannot be a fall-back for the failures of this SNP government. Winter is looming and the government has lost control. 

“The government clearly has no strategy, it’s tools are not working and they have lost control of the virus. We need a proper strategy to tackle this pandemic, not more knee-jerk reactions and short-term thinking.”

“It’s essential that the Scottish Government ensures that the proposed introduction of vaccine certification doesn’t adversely affect disabled people.”

Gillian Mackay, Scottish Greens health and social care spokesperson

Scottish Greens health and social care spokesperson Gillian Mackay said it was important the certification process “doesn’t adversely affect vulnerable people in our communities”.

She said: “It’s essential that the Scottish Government ensures that the proposed introduction of vaccine certification doesn’t adversely affect disabled people, those with underlying health conditions and those from the global south who may not be able to access proof of vaccination.

“It’s essential that government acts to address the surge in cases, but it must ensure that there are no negative unintended consequences from the measures it introduces.”

The Liberal Democrats branded the certificates as “SNP/Green medical ID cards” and said they had the potential for expansion to other sectors and areas of society.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “This Government has moved effectively to a position where people will now be compelled to show evidence of their medical records in order to access certain freedoms.

“This is an illiberal step and a dangerous precedent.“Big systems for scheduling tests, contact tracing, travel and more haven’t been up to the task. 

“They are creaking at the sides. Domestic Medical ID cards present real risks to the management of our personal information and could be easily expanded to include other aspects of life.

“The First Minister told me she wouldn’t even put a time limit on this. Liberal Democrats have always opposed medical ID cards and, unlike the Greens, we will continue to oppose them.”