Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton has called for a full parliamentary vote on any further expansion of restrictions ahead of the First Minister’s Covid briefing.
Nicola Sturgeon is due to give an announcement on Tuesday when she is expected to set out an expansion of Covid ID cards in Scotland.
The scheme came into effect in October and currently encourages nightclubs and large venues to only allow entry to people who can show they have had two doses of a Covid vaccine.
Speaking ahead of the statement, Mr Cole-Hamilton urged the Government to ditch the “unworkable” system, abolish Covid ID cards and demanded a full parliamentary vote on any further expansion before it comes into force.
“This expensive and unworkable scheme is a very deliberate diversion from the real crisis in our NHS and the SNP’s failure to build a contact tracing system that actually allows us to stamp out chains of infection,” he said.
“Ministers are just trying to look busy. We know transmission continues even among people who have received two vaccine doses.
“All this system does is give people false confidence that they will not pick up Covid-19 and encourages risk taking.”
Mr Cole-Hamilton said the SNP and Greens have not provided any “factual evidence” to show the current Covid ID scheme is keeping Scotland safer, adding “no wonder it has been attacked by everyone from health experts to civil liberties groups.
“The government should instead focus on the measures that we know can help us defeat the virus: testing, tracing and vaccinating.”
Dr Liz Cameron, chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, also called on the First Minister to “seriously consider the economic damage” further restrictions could have on businesses.
In a letter addressed to Ms Sturgeon ahead of the scheduled announcement, she said Scottish businesses remain “unconvinced” that the public health benefits of an extension to Scotland’s coronavirus scheme outweigh the negatives for individuals, businesses and the economy.
She said evidence shows extending vaccine certification has the potential to lock nearly one in three (31%) 18 to 29-year-olds out of pubs, restaurants, cafes, theatres and cinemas under the current rules.
“This is a critical time for Scotland’s businesses as we enter the Golden Quarter over the festive period where many businesses make most of their earnings for the year, and our members remain concerned about the impact that an expansion of Covid-19 restrictions and vaccine certification will have on them financially,” she added.
Dr Cameron said the Scottish Government has failed to demonstrate that “workplace transmission” is happening in office settings, and said further encouragement of the work from home scheme will have a devastating impact on city centre economies.
“A return to a stronger message on encouraging home working from the Scottish Government, after months of collaborative working with businesses during which it was agreed that a gradual and phased return to offices could be done safely, would be a considerable step backwards,” she added.
The Scottish Hospitality Group made an announcement on Twitter before tomorrow’s announcement saying: “Ahead of tomorrow’s cabinet meeting and Covid cert statement by @ScotGovFM, we would respectfully ask that everything we have discussed and issues we face with policy in its current form, including the abuse of staff, operational and financial issues, are all taken into account.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said encouraging working from home is “an important mitigation in controlling the virus” and to minimise other economic and social restrictions.
The spokesperson added: “The situation around the pandemic is serious so we are being open about all of the options available to us that may be required to protect the public.
“Since the start of the pandemic, the Scottish Government has provided more than £4.4 billion to help businesses cope with the impact of Covid-19.
“We continue to liaise closely with stakeholders, including business organisations and we are working with businesses as we rebuild the economy following the pandemic, including through the work of the retail strategy, the Town Centre Review and City Centre Recovery Taskforce, as well as the Scotland Loves Local (SLL) £10 million multi-year support programme.”