The Scottish Hospitality Group has stated that the possibility of vaccine passports to grant access for pubs and restaurants in Scotland “would not only be impractical but totally futile” and risks discriminating against large portions of the population.
Cabinet minister Robert Jenrick said the use of vaccine passports internationally could be out of the government’s hands.
Questioned on Times Radio about whether they would be in place for pubs being allowed indoor customers in May, as per the road map to reopening, he said: “No, we’re taking time to consider this issue carefully – it is a complex issue.
“Of course on the international stage, vaccine certification is not entirely within our control and if our citizens want to travel abroad, we’ll need to ensure that they are able to do so.
“Domestically, there are a range of issues we need to work through, that work is now happening and it will be reporting back later – but if we do go down that route, we don’t anticipate it being in the near term.”
Jenrick said there was no “immediate plan” to make an announcement on the use of vaccine passports and suggested any rollout would not be until after the “whole country has been vaccinated”.
Asked about objections to the possible scheme, the Communities Secretary stated: “I completely understand the reservations that many people have in Parliament and across the country.
“We’re looking into the practical issues, the ethical concerns and we’re being guided by the best medical and scientific opinion and we will be bringing forward the outcome of that work in the coming weeks.”
Stephen Montgomery, spokesperson for the Scottish Hospitality Group, responded that vaccine passports would add more red tape to a sector that has faced the brunt of restrictions since the start of the pandemic.
“The passports could be forged easily and would risk creating a segregated society with young people, who will be last to receive the vaccine.
“It is the public’s choice if they go to a pub, bar, or restaurant, and it would be totally unethical to take that away.
“It would be much more sensible to protect staff working in hospitality, who are predominantly under the age of 25, and prioritise them to receive the vaccine first, which would help to speed up the reopening of the sector, save jobs, and keep the public safe,” he added.
When the First Minister set out her initial plans for Scotland’s route out of lockdown in February, concerns were raised by Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie about vaccine passports “slowly gaining traction”.
At the time, Nicola Sturgeon replied: “I wouldn’t support the access to public services being based on anything like that”, warning against any preconceived ideas about vaccine passports or certificates, noting that there may well be scope for vaccinations giving access to certain services in the future.
Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie also asked about vaccine passports and their potential for making social inequality even worse, to which Sturgeon responded that MSPs must think properly about what vaccine passports could offer, while insisting she would never support something that deepened social inequalities.
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