Nicola Sturgeon has been accused of overseeing “shambolic” and “knee-jerk” plans to introduce vaccine passports for nightclubs and large events in Scotland after “losing control” of the pandemic.
Douglas Ross, the Scottish Tory leader, said hospitality groups, sports clubs and venues have “no idea” how the certification scheme will work. Football chiefs have warned there is not “sufficient time or appropriate IT infrastructure in place”.
He told First Minister’s Questions that SNP ministers could not even define a “nightclub” after John Swinney, the Deputy First Minister, admitted there was a “pretty fine line” whether the passport scheme would apply in some licensed premises.
Mr Ross also said a suggestion by Mr Swinney that vaccine passports could be made permanent will “worry people across Scotland.”
Pressed on Thursday by a Holyrood committee whether they could be in place “forever”, Mr Swinney said: “It really depends on the course of the pandemic and the degree to which that becomes less of a present and prevalent threat to us.”
During bad-tempered exchanges with Ms Sturgeon at First Minister’s Questions, Mr Ross said she had only performed an about-turn on vaccine passports because her government had lost control of the pandemic “and the NHS is in crisis.”
His accusation came as Scotland reported a further 17 deaths yesterday, the highest daily total for six months. The number of daily cases rose to 6,400, while 624 people were in hospital and 55 in intensive care.
NHS in ‘crisis’
The First Minister announced on Wednesday that a “limited” certification scheme will be introduced later this month in the hope of tackling the surge and increasing uptake of the vaccine among the young.
Adults, except those with certain exempt medical conditions, will be forced to show they have received both doses before they can enter nightclubs, adult entertainment venues or large live events including sports matches and concerts.
Ms Sturgeon said she was not currently planning to extend the scheme to all hospitality premises but warned this was being kept under review.
The announcement represented an abrupt about-turn by both the SNP and its new Green coalition partners, with both parties having recently expressed opposition to the move.
Speaking following the exchanges, Mr Ross said: “The SNP Government used to grandstand about its handling of the pandemic. We don’t hear those boasts often anymore.
“Nicola Sturgeon refused to answer questions on vaccine passports. We heard nothing about what infrastructure will be in place, who will administer it or what financial support will be available.”
He added: “Nicola Sturgeon is losing her grip on Covid and the NHS is in crisis. The pressure is only going to build as we move towards winter.”
Anas Sarwar, the Scottish Labour leader, pressed the First Minister on the “tragedy” of “ever-lengthening” waiting lists after official figures this week disclosed more than 600,000 people are waiting for treatment.
The First Minister blamed Covid but Mr Sarwar pointed out 450,000 people were waiting when the pandemic started. He highlighted that in 2003, when she was in opposition, Ms Sturgeon had described a waiting list of 80,000 as a “humiliation” for Labour.
A debate and vote on the vaccine passport plan is scheduled for next week and Ms Sturgeon on Thursday said that both Green co-leaders, who joined her government this week, were bound by collective ministerial responsibility to support the plan.
A Scottish Greens spokesman said the party’s five remaining MSPs were also “likely” to back it despite their reservations. Their cooperation agreement with the SNP does not exclude Covid issues.
Accusing Mr Ross of being “infantile”, Ms Sturgeon said: “On the detail, we will produce the detail of how the scheme will work before we bring the proposal to parliament for parliament to debate and decide, through a vote, whether we go ahead with it.”
She said ministers were now “engaging with sectors across the economy” about the plan and, despite widespread criticism, she insisted there was a “degree of understanding and pragmatism” from affected sectors.
The Scottish Government last night said it did not “envisage” employees in affected premises would have to be double vaccinated to go to work, with “only attendees” requiring passports.