SNP ministers have been urged to rule out implementing domestic Covid passports amid warnings over the "serious" impact they would have on beleaguered hospitality businesses and young people.
Speaking at a coronavirus media briefing on Tuesday, Nicola Sturgeon refused to give a date for when a decision will be taken on vaccine passports North of the Border after Boris Johnson announced that nightclubs in England would require them for entry by the end of September.
The First Minister insisted any proposal for people to prove they have been vaccinated against coronavirus in order to gain entry into specific venues "need to be really carefully considered".
“It raises sensitive ethical and equity considerations – not least because there are some people who can’t get vaccinated because of health conditions and we are not yet in a position of having a recommendation to vaccinate all younger teenagers,” she said.
Pressed on the timings of any announcement, she said it would be “reasonable” to assume her government will provide further clarity “before we signal the reopening of places like nightclubs”.
Scotland is due to lift almost all legal restrictions on August 9, although Ms Sturgeon has refused to say what rules will be in place for nightclubs despite it being less than three weeks away.
She added: "These may be things that – if they are introduced – might be in place for quite some time, so we’ve got to get the decisions right and when we are in a position to see more we will say that and I’m not going to go further on a speculative basis today."
However, opposition parties have cautioned against following the UK Government’s lead on implementing the controversial policy and accused SNP ministers of “doing the vaccine passport hokey-pokey for months”.
“When the First Minister was asked about vaccine passports last year, she said she did not favour them. Yet in April it was revealed that the government had been working on the policy and both Humza Yousaf and Jason Leitch have suggested that is the direction of travel,” said Scottish Liberal Democrat interim leader Alistair Carmichael.
Demanding that Ms Sturgeon “show some leadership and rule out domestic vaccine passports”, he added: “There is no clarity on how these will work, what they will be used for and for how long.
“It is a massive step for the state to insist that people be vaccinated before accessing everyday services. The impact on young people and the risk of abuse are serious.”
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross also expressed skepticism about their use, warning that people may be treated differently despite some people having “a very good reason why they can’t get the vaccine”.
“I don’t like a situation where we could have two tiers of people: those who can and have been vaccinated and those who have not,” he said, pointing out that Scotland still has a large number of people being unvaccinated.
Vaccine passports in large venues
Meanwhile, the Scottish Hospitality Group urged ministers not to impose passports on the already battered nighttime sector.
“Young people have gone through enough in the last year and a half, and our main demographic in nightclubs is predominantly young people,” said group spokesman Stephan Montgomery.
“You’ve got operational issues around it as well. Nightclubs are at their busiest between 11pm and three or four o’clock in the morning, and it’s hard enough getting people through the door and checking their ages before the pandemic.
“This is just another thing they’d have to do. Are they going to have to invest in extra tech, in extra staff? We can already see a huge loss in night time economy staffing debt is mounting.”