Scotland doubles public money invested into Covid vaccine passport app

SNP ministers have doubled the amount of public money being spent on Scotland’s vaccine passport app despite admitting they do not know whether the controversial scheme works.

John Swinney said that the £600,000 already invested in developing a bespoke mobile phone app would increase to up to £1.2 million, after the original version included a series of technical glitches and security flaws.

He revealed the increased cost before admitting it was “impossible” to say if the scheme, which businesses claim has had a devastating impact on income, was an effective tool in the fight against Covid-19.

A contract with Danish IT firm Netcompany was formally extended in October, it has emerged, leading to an overhauled app which allows Scots to prove their vaccination status.

Meanwhile, more than 42,000 people have reported errors in their vaccination records since July, according to figures obtained by BBC Scotland. 

The issues have meant some people being denied access to nightclubs or large events, as despite receiving both jabs, they are unable to use the app or obtain a paper certificate.

At Holyrood on Thursday, Mr Swinney, the deputy first minister, said he could not prove vaccine passports had led to any increased uptake in vaccination rates or reduced the spread of the virus.

Mr Swinney admitted it was 'impossible' to say if the scheme was an effective tool in the fight against Covid-19

Credit: Fraser Bremner/PA

The Telegraph revealed this week that vaccination rates had slowed among younger Scots – a key target group who it was claimed would be more likely to accept jabs – since the scheme came into force.

Mr Swinney told the Covid-19 committee that it is “impossible to segment” data on coronavirus to determine whether certification was effective.

However, he said he believed it was “delivering a positive benefit to the suppression of the virus” and refused to rule out extending the requirement to prove vaccination to other premises if Covid case numbers rise.

Alex Cole-Hamilton, the leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, said Mr Swinney’s comments showed the scheme, which nightclubs in particular have said has had a devastating impact on trade, was “based on blind faith”.

“The deputy first minister cannot point to a shred of evidence that his Covid ID scheme is keeping anyone safe,” he added.

“If they want to tell the public that there are fairies at the bottom of the garden, the public should be able to demand to see the proof.

“Extraordinarily, the deputy first minister is now suggesting that these measures could be extended to further premises.

“He was completely oblivious to the fact 42,000 people have reported problems with the government’s system, causing many to be wrongly locked out.”

The BBC investigation found that in some cases, records wrongly showed a person had received only one vaccine dose rather than two, meaning it was impossible for them to prove they had been double-jabbed.

Map of UK's seven-day Covid-19 infection rate, by local authority

Other problems were caused by incorrect names and addresses and because GP records had not been updated.

Mr Swinney faced further pressure after he told MSPs last week that there was no data on the number of people who had experienced problems obtaining vaccine passports, only for the information to be released to journalists under Freedom of Information laws.

Nicola Sturgeon apologised last month for the chaotic launch of the app, which saw tens of thousands unable to access their records. Her government rejected an offer from the UK Government to share its app, instead insisting on developing its own version.

Mr Swinney said that the original contract with Netcompany had been extended to “reflect the expansion of the original proposal” for an international travel app and to include “new technical development work to support the domestic status of the app”.

A Scottish government spokesman added: “The scope and contract was extended in line with NHS Scotland procurement guidelines.”

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