Scotland will introduce Covid vaccine passports from 1 October - what you need to know

In the first major vote since the agreement between the SNP and the Greens, the party joined the government in backing vaccine passports by 68 votes to 55.

People in Scotland will need a Covid vaccine passport to gain entry to nightclubs and many large events from 1 October.

The Scottish Government’s plans for the controversial measure were backed by MSPs as the Greens provided the necessary votes.

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The vote today (9 September) was not to pass legislation, but rather to pass a motion supporting the implementation of vaccine passports.

At-a-glance: 5 key points

  • Vaccine passports will be introduced after the SNP and Greens backed the plans. The proposals were opposed by the Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats.
  • From 1 October, the scheme will make a QR code available through a smartphone app – along with a paper alternative for those who need it – which will be scanned before entry is allowed to nightclubs or similar venues, adult entertainment, unseated indoor events with more than 500 people, outdoor unseated events with more than 4,000 people or any event with more than 10,000 in attendance.
  • A paper released just hours before MSPs are due to vote on the scheme stated there would be a legal requirement for businesses to “take all reasonable measures” to ensure compliance, while ministers are also considering if there is a need for an offence to stop the “misuse” of the certificates.
  • The paper also said evidence was still being gathered about the effectiveness of similar schemes elsewhere in the world.
  • People in England will need to a "Covid pass" to access "higher risk" settings such as nightclubs from the end of September, while there are no current plans to introduce a similar scheme in Wales or Northern Ireland.

Why are vaccine passports being introduced?

It is hoped that mandating the use of vaccine passports will encourage more reluctant Scots to get vaccinated so they are able to attend.

The recent surge in cases has led to the belief among Nicola Sturgeon and her senior ministers that a more forceful strategy is needed to encourage uptake.

What was said in the debate?

Covid Recovery Secretary John Swinney, speaking in the debate, said: “As I’ve indicated, the government has set out details to parliament of the nature of the scheme, we’ve put those proposals to parliament this afternoon as part of an approach to protect a very fragile situation that we face in Scotland today of rising infections and hospitalisation that poses a threat to our national health service.

“We are trying to take proportionate action to protect the public from coronavirus.”

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross took aim at the level of detail in the document.

“I’m really not sure what we’re expected to do as parliamentarians, as people sent here to scrutinise the government,” he said.

“Nicola Sturgeon announced these plans a week ago – we were told we would get a paper setting out how these vaccine passports would work.”

Scottish Green co-leader Patrick Harvie, who became a Scottish Government minister in August, set out his position as he made an intervention in the debate.

Previously, Mr Harvie had expressed concerns about the use of Covid status certificates.

He said: “There is a very big difference between thinking that this policy should be approved when cases were running at a few hundred a day, to thinking it is worth considering when cases are running at around 7,000 a day.

“And once the entire adult population has had the opportunity for both vaccines.”

How has the hospitality industry reacted?

Earlier, businesses had said they were still in the dark about how the Scottish Government’s Covid passports would work.

The executive director of UK Hospitality Scotland, Leon Thompson, said there was a lack of clarity about what the Covid passport plans would entail.

He said: “We’re very concerned about the proposals and the vote that’s going ahead today.

“We weren’t so consulted about this ahead of the First Minister’s statement last week, we had some very rushed and hurried conversations with officials over the last few days.”

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