Scotland’s Covid passport scheme has hit business and led to only a small increase in the number of people taking up the vaccine, a Scottish Government report has revealed.
The findings on the certification programme also showed around half (54%) of people had shown their certificate at an event where it was “required”.
Deputy First Minister John Swinney said the current passport scheme is “working well” and had been downloaded for use more than 1.5 million times.
The public are “generally supportive”, according to the findings of the report published by the Scottish Government on Friday evening.
The report states the scheme is the least restrictive of measures the government could introduce, compared to re-introducing capacity limits on venues, early closing times or completely closing events.
We want businesses to remain open throughout the Christmas period so it is sensible to consider options available to expand Covid certification.”
– John Swinney
Around 65% of those asked do not believe the scheme should be rolled out to smaller events and businesses, even though they acknowledged it was designed “to help, not hinder”.
Some businesses have reported a rise in abuse toward staff as a result of them asking for vaccine certification.
Will vaccine passports be extended?
Scotland, the report concludes, stands at a choice between closing venues and limiting contact — similar to lockdown — or use certification to “reduce the risk that an infectious person will be present in a higher risk setting”.
After being introduced on September 1 this year, the paper concludes there is “incomplete information” if the passport scheme has had an impact on tackling the longer-term effects on the virus, society and the economy.
Any decision to extend the scheme would not be implemeted until Monday December 6.
Although the Scottish Government insisted no decisions had yet been taken, the following businesses and public spaces could be required to check vaccine status in order to stay open:
- Indoor cinemas
- Concert Halls
- Hospitality venues, including cafes, restaurants, pubs, bars, hotel bars and
restaurants, and social clubs.
- Cafes and restaurants in other settings, such as supermarkets, larger retail
units and other leisure settings.
How the Covid passport works
As part of restrictions to mitigate the spread of the virus, certain venues and public events require proof of double vaccination before entry is allowed.
Proof of vaccination is currently required to enter:
- Late night venues open after midnight with alcohol and music and dancing
- Unseated indoor live events, with more than 500 people in the audience
- Unseated outdoor live events, with more than 4,000 people in the audience
- Any event, of any nature, which has more than 10,000 people in attendance
The Scottish Government said no personal data is stored on the app itself. Information on what vaccine you have had is available to read on the app, as well as your name and date of birth.
Fewer than half of Scots polled (49%) think the certification scheme makes venues and events safer for them to visit, while 47% feel businesses and events will find it difficult to monitor who has got the app.
Overall approval for the scheme sits at 59%, with around a quarter (24%) opposing it and 13% neither supporting nor opposing it.
Impact on business
Representatives for night clubs and late night businesses have reported a drop in footfall and revenue since the passport scheme was introduced, with some businesses reporting losses of almost 50%.
Staff have been subjected to abuse and “anti-social behaviour”, it has been reported, while a general shortage in door-staff has also been noted by the industry bodies.
Business owners have also expressed concerns about footfall and revenue over the Christmas period and worry an impact on festive party bookings could arise because of the scheme.
It was claimed introducing proof of a negative lateral flow test could improve footfall for some businesses, including food and drink establishments.
The cost of running vaccine passport checks, including providing scanning equipment, employing extra staff to reduce queues and police at sporting events could all have a negative impact on revenue, the report concludes.
Scottish Conservative Covid recovery spokesman Murdo Fraser said: “John Swinney continues to insist the SNP’s vaccine certification scheme is ‘working well’, yet in almost 70 pages of their so-called ‘evidence’ document, the SNP Government have failed to provide concrete proof of the scheme’s effectiveness.
“In contrast, the devastating impact on businesses is all too clear.
“The SNP Government has admitted that night-time venues have faced significant trade losses, rising costs and increased abuse of staff as a result of the existing scheme. Yet they are still considering extending the requirements to over 17,000 additional businesses.
“The fact that this lukewarm report is the best the SNP could conjure up in support of this shambolic policy, should tell you all you need to know.
“The SNP’s vaccine passport scheme has been a mistake from day one and this evidence paper offers no convincing grounds for its extension.”
Expansion considerations ‘sensible’
Covid recovery secretary John Swinney said: “With cases rising gradually and pressures on our NHS, our approach is to keep people safe and get through a challenging winter without having to re-introduce any restrictions.
“This paper provides an update of the evidence of the vaccine certification scheme and focuses on the potential impact of a range of options for expanding it. Our vaccine certification scheme is working well, with venues and events affected continuing to operate and more than 1.5 million downloads of the NHS Covid status app so far.
“We want businesses to remain open throughout the Christmas period so it is sensible to consider options available to expand Covid certification. We will continue to consult with hospitality industry representatives and will set out our proposed approach next week.”