The Scottish government has announced that it will not extend the country’s vaccine passport scheme to more venues. Plus, starting next month, people trying to enter venues already covered by the scheme will also be able to present a negative COVID-19 test to gain entry, instead of proof that they are fully vaccinated.
It had been expected that the scheme would be extended to more venues, but yesterday First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said data on infections was “more positive than we might have expected it to be”. Given the “inevitable impact vaccine certification has on the operation of businesses”, she added, it would not be appropriate to widen the scheme at a time when infections are falling.
The live music and night-time sectors have been critical of the Scottish government’s decision to mandate certain venues to check COVID Passports at the door, and only allow in those who have been vaccinated against the coronavirus, preferring the English system whereby it is up to individual venues as to whether or not they have such entry requirements.
Reps for the live and night-time industries remain critical of the COVID Passport requirement in Scotland, though have welcomed the fact that the scheme is not being extended, and that – as in Wales already – a negative COVID test will be accepted instead of a vaccination certificate.
Commenting on the latest announcement, CEO of live industry trade body LIVE, Greg Parmley, says: “The live music industry is pleased that the Scottish government has announced that negative lateral flow tests will be included in the COVID certification programme in Scotland. While there is still no evidence of the need for such a scheme, and we believe that industry measures to mitigate risk are sufficient, the inclusion of testing will result in a great number of people being able to access live music and provide vital income for the industry”.
Questioning the need for restrictions on entry to certain venues, he adds: “The Scottish government’s own evidence demonstrates that introducing vaccine passports has failed to increase the rates of vaccination, in fact in the 18-29 group the numbers of people getting their jabs in Scotland has been at a similar rate, and at times higher, in England where there is no vaccine passport. At the same time, evidence from some parts of the Scottish live music industry has shown this policy has slashed income by up to 40%”.
Meanwhile, the Night Time Industries Association Scotland says that it is “encouraged” by the Scottish government’s latest announcement, calling it “a sensible and pragmatic decision which takes into account the extraordinary harm businesses have suffered as a result of restrictions over the last two years, the lack of evidence that this scheme has any meaningful impact on vaccine uptake, concerns around human rights, and also recognises that the current trajectory of infections and hospitalisations is falling”.
However, like LIVE, it questions the need for such a scheme at all, continuing: “We now call on Scottish government to urgently review whether continued application of the scheme is either necessary or proportionate and provide urgent financial grant support to those businesses that remain in scope of the scheme”.
“It is a positive step in the right direction that lateral flow tests will now be included as an alternative to double vaccination, which will safeguard late night venues in particular, and is something the trade body has advocated for from the inception of this scheme”, they continue. “This brings Scotland in line with other European nations, and partially alleviates at least some of the equalities and social exclusion harms that were previously the case. However the experience in Wales indicates that affected businesses, even with [COVID test] inclusion, have still suffered a 26% decrease in trade”.
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