All Scottish pubs may have to hire door staff if vaccine passport scheme extended

Every pub in Scotland could be forced to hire door staff if plans to expand the country’s vaccine passport scheme to all hospitality venues go ahead, industry leaders have warned.

The Scottish Licenced Trade Association (SLTA) said it feared that pubs – and bars, restaurants and cafes – would be left in a situation "too ridiculous to even contemplate" if told to enforce a ban on customers who have not been double-jabbed.

John Swinney, the Deputy First Minister, revealed on Tuesday that SNP ministers were considering extending the controversial scheme, which applies to nightclubs and large events, to other hospitality and leisure venues.

But Mr Swinney faces mounting criticism for failing to set out exactly which premises the rules could apply to. In a meeting with hospitality bosses on Wednesday, Scottish government officials refused to clarify the scope of a possible extension.

There are fears that, should the scheme be expanded, existing guidance – which states that nightclub door staff who carry out vaccine checks and refuse entry must have a Security Industry Authority (SIA) licence – would apply to pubs.

‘How would it work without door staff to enforce it?’

Nightclubs have already complained that there is a shortage of accredited door staff in Scotland, and Paul Waterson, a spokesman for the SLTA, warned that any extension of the scheme would prove unenforceable.

"If we have underage drinkers, bar staff can challenge them," he said. "But it would be completely different with vaccine passports – how would it work without door staff to enforce it? The guidance says people turning people away at the door should be SIA accredited, and to apply that to pubs would be just too ridiculous to even contemplate."

Speaking on Wednesday, Mr Swinney said the "core purpose" of the vaccine passport scheme was to encourage more people to come forward for their jabs. He said the scheme had worked because the rates of vaccination among 18 to 29-year-olds had risen since September.

However, analysis by The Telegraph has shown that the pace of the rollout actually slowed among younger Scots after the scheme was announced.

Business groups reacted with horror to the prospect of the scheme being extended, with nightclubs claiming they have taken a major hit since it came into force last month. Hoteliers said on Wednesday that English tourists who planned to spend Hogmanay in Scotland had begun cancelling their trips.

SNP urged to ‘come clean’ to businesses

However, Mr Swinney has said more Covid restrictions could be needed in the run up to Christmas, with the NHS under major pressure and virus case numbers expected to rise. He has said rules on face masks could be tightened, with an announcement due next week, but has so far declined to say how.

"It’s not a case of we have taken a decision and not announced it," he told BBC Radio Scotland. "We have taken no decisions – we are airing the fact we have got a significant challenge, we need to engage with the business community and engage with sectors about how we best address that."

However, Douglas Lumsden, the economy spokesman for the Scottish Tories, called on the SNP to "come clean" and provide "the most basic details" to businesses of what specific restrictions they are considering.

"John Swinney dodged questions in the Scottish Parliament and his pitiful answers on the radio were no better," Mr Lumsden said. "The uncertainty this vacuum is creating is deeply harmful to our economy. Businesses deserve answers from the SNP, not this stage-managed smoke and mirrors act.”

A Scottish government spokesman said: "As the Deputy First Minister has made clear, the situation around the pandemic is serious so we are being open about all the options available to us that may be required to protect the public.

"No decisions have been made and parliament will be informed if and when any decisions are reached. We continue to liaise closely with stakeholders, including the hospitality sector."

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