Nicola Sturgeon is under mounting pressure to dump her controversial vaccine passports plan after the UK Government dropped a similar scheme for England and football chiefs warned it could not be implemented.
Scotland’s beleaguered licensed trade industry and Holyrood’s opposition leaders urged the First Minister to reconsider after Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary in England, announced the plan south of the Border had been shelved.
Mr Javid said the UK Government, which conducted an extensive consultation on the scheme, had examined the evidence before making the about-turn. He added: "We shouldn’t be doing things for the sake of it."
Prof Stephen Reicher, one of Ms Sturgeon’s handpicked Covid advisers, then highlighted on social media "two new studies showing how vaccine passports may backfire by making vaccination seem like a control measure (done ‘to us’ rather than ‘for us’) and hence generate opposition (especially amongst those with low trust in authority)."
But, speaking at around the same time as Mr Javid and seemingly unaware of the UK Government’s decision, Ms Sturgeon insisted vaccine passports would help tackle the pandemic and increase vaccine uptake.
She said: "This is a very limited scheme; it is similar to what has been proposed for England as well and it has a part to play." Ms Sturgeon also insisted there was no evidence vaccine passports discouraged people from getting jabbed.
The SNP-Green coalition won a Holyrood vote last Thursday to introduce the scheme on Oct 1, when only those who can show they are double-jabbed will be allowed to enter nightclubs or large events such as concerts and sports matches.
But a six-page paper published by the Scottish Government admitted officials still had no definition for "nightclubs and other analogous venues" where the scheme will apply.
Officials have also yet to draw up any detailed guidance for the wide range of premises where vaccine passports will be required, which also include sports stadiums, concert halls and theatres.
Scotland should follow suit
Paul Waterson, spokesman for the Scottish Licensed Trade Association, said: "We would strongly urge the Scottish Government to follow suit on this.
"There’s no evidence that hospitality events are to blame for the rise in cases. Westminster have looked at it and have done a U-turn and I believe the same thing should be happening in Scotland."
Nicola Sturgeon’s bookshelf
Douglas Ross, the Scottish Tory leader, said: "The SNP bulldozed their scheme through Holyrood without any thought for the livelihoods it would affect. It was rushed, riddled with holes and no thought was given to how businesses would be impacted.
"I am pleased the Health Secretary has confirmed this won’t be going ahead in England. The SNP should reflect on their half-baked plans that only passed in Holyrood with the votes of SNP and Green politicians."
Vaccine passports ‘risk disorder’ during queues for events
The chief executive of Scotland’s professional football league (SPFL) warned it was not "achievable" to check that all fans attending games have received both jabs and urged Ms Sturgeon to come up with a realistic alternative, such as spot checks.
Neil Doncaster told BBC Scotland’s Sunday Show it was "no surprise" the UK Government had dumped its plan and the SPFL was "hugely concerned" about the practicalities of delivering the scheme.
With the vast majority of spectators turning up at stadiums shortly before kick-off, as alcohol is not sold inside Scottish grounds, he warned that blanket inspections of vaccine certification would risk "disorder" by frustrated fans forced to queue.
He said: "I think it can work but I think spot-checking is frankly the only practical reality because if you are expecting football clubs to vaccine passport check 30,000 or 40,000 people in the minutes before kick-off, that’s simply not going to happen. It can’t happen. I don’t think it’s achievable, realistically."
Mr Doncaster said there was a "huge strength of feeling" among clubs about the scheme and a "slight bewilderment" that they had been given "such a short space of time" to implement "such a major change."
But John Swinney, the Deputy First Minister, said: "Vaccine certificates have a role to play as part of a wider package of measures. They add a further layer of protection in certain higher risk settings.
"This is a very limited scheme and we hope this will allow businesses to remain open and prevent any further restrictions as we head into autumn and winter."