Hospitality business owners and leisure operators in Tayside and Fife have told of their relief over an update to the rules on Covid-19 vaccine passports.
It has been confirmed that the scheme will not be extended into restaurants and other smaller venues for now.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has also confirmed that proof of a negative lateral flow test will be accepted for entry to venues or events covered by the passport scheme from December 6.
Why were businesses concerned?
Firms had raised concerns about the prospect of extending the vaccine passport scheme into more venues, such as restaurants, cinemas and theatres, where they are not currently required.
One Fife bar owner claimed it would lead to an “avalanche of cancellations” in the lead-up to Christmas if it was to go ahead amid fears that people would instead choose to gather in private settings.
A trade body also told MSPs last week that the scheme, which meant people had to show vaccination proof in places like nightclubs and at large events, had already been “devastating” for business.
The Scottish Licensed Trade Association claimed a survey found 83% of operators had suffered a drop in trade of more than 10% from pre-pandemic levels.
Of those enforcing the vaccine passport policy, 95% said they had been negatively impacted. Some 87% said trade had decreased by more than 20%.
However John Mason, a member of the Scottish Parliament’s Covid-19 recovery committee, accused the body of “a certain amount of crying wolf” and “slightly overstating” the case.
How have firms reacted to the latest Covid update?
Ms Sturgeon’s announcement means nightclubs will now be able to accept either a vaccine passport or proof of a negative lateral flow test to allow revellers entry.
Tony Cochrane, who runs several night-time venues in Dundee including Club Tropicana and Aura, said: “It’s definitely more positive news – it’s what we’ve been asking for since the start.
“This is much fairer now because before people who had only had their first vaccine were having to wait weeks and weeks for their second one, which meant they couldn’t come in.
“We’ve always said that a negative test should be an alternate way of getting in.
“It’s also sensible news because a negative test proves – or is close to proving most of the time – that you don’t have the virus at all.
“With the vaccine you might actually have the virus still and you could be spreading it to other people.
“What we were also seeing before was that if one person wasn’t vaccinated then their whole group might not come in.
“This should hopefully help with that too.”
It would have been extra work for us – extra staffing, extra fees, all extra expenses
Fife pub owner Morag Douglas
Owners of restaurants and pubs that are not currently subject to the vaccine passport rules say they welcome Tuesday’s update.
Morag Douglas, Fife Licensed Trade Association director and owner of The Star pub in Burntisland, said: “I’m feeling pretty relieved.
“I’ve got a lot of older customers who might have had difficulty downloading an app and using it.
“It would have been extra work for us too – extra staffing, extra fees, all extra expenses.
“Obviously anything could happen now, but we’re feeling pretty good at the moment.”
Chris Symonds, who owns 3 Session Street cocktail bar in Dundee, said: “There is a sense of relief.
“Because of the pandemic a lot of places are running at a low percentage, so having to put [the vaccine passport scheme] in place would make things a lot harder.”
The announcement also means that smaller theatres and similar venues will not need to check for people’s vaccination status.
Nick Williams, chief executive of Horsecross Arts – which runs Perth Concert Hall and Perth Theatre – said: “We welcome today’s announcement by the Scottish Government not to extend the current Covid vaccine certification scheme to include smaller events and venues.
“The financial and staffing implications of such an extension would have had potentially catastrophic results in the run up to our busiest period of the year.
“We are grateful that the government has consulted with us and listened to the views and experience of the sector when reaching this decision.
“This means that the only upcoming event in Perth Concert Hall and Perth Theatre that requires vaccine certification or – under the updated rules – a negative lateral flow test is the sold-out mixed standing and seating Deacon Blue gig on Tuesday December 7.
“We will be contacting ticketholders to remind them about this and advise them of the new negative test option.”