Citizens will be required to demonstrate status from start of next month
From the start of next month, Scotland is to introduce mandatory coronavirus vaccine certification for large events and nightclubs.
The plan, voted through by the Scottish Parliament last week, marks a divergence from the UK government, which indicated over the weekend that it is suspending its own plans to implement so-called Covid passports for domestic events. Scotland is thus set to become the only part of the UK where proof of vaccine status will be legally required – although many venues and event organisers across all four nations may still choose to ask attendees to provide evidence of vaccination.
Scottish citizens can display their status via the NHS Scotland Covid-19 status app, which embeds details of person’s vaccine record in a secure QR code. Another mobile application, allowing staff at venues to verify these codes, is being made available for download this week.
Those without access to mobile technology can request a “secure un-editable paper record of vaccination”, which the Scottish Government said includes a unique QR code, as well as “enhanced security features, such as thermodynamic ink to prevent forgery”.
In the short term, the codes issued by the app will be used for both domestic events and international travel – the purpose for which they were designed.
But an update introduced sometime in October will split the app into two sections, with separate codes for use in Scotland and internationally.
For those who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons, a process will be created which allows them to document their exemption.
Under-18s and participants in vaccine trials will also be exempt, as will employees of venues affected by the scheme, which will includes: nightclubs; “sexual entertainment venues”; events in any setting with over 10,000 attendees; and live outdoor and indoor events with more than 4,000 and 500 unseated attendees, respectively.
Negative coronavirus test results will not be accepted as an alternative to evidence of vaccination – although this policy will be “kept under review”.
“At this stage, we do not consider that this would be appropriate and, indeed, could undermine one of the policy aims of the scheme, which is to increase vaccine uptake,” the Scottish Government said. “Also, it is important at this stage to prioritise PCR lab capacity for Test and Protect purposes and while promoting regular LFD tests is an extremely important aspect of our overall approach, further work would be required on an optimal approach to incorporating testing, including consideration of the appropriateness of self-testing in this context.”
It added: “We are working with other UK jurisdictions to ensure interoperability across the UK as well as considering how evidence of vaccination for people from outwith the UK can be verified.”
The Covid passport plans were opposed by Scottish Labour, Conservatives, and the Liberal Democrats. But support from the Scottish National Party and the Greens allowed the proposals to pass a vote in the Scottish Parliament by 68 to 55.
This approval came shortly before the Westminster government made a U-turn on its own plans to introduce mandatory vaccine status later this month.
Health secretary Sajid Javid yesterday told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show that the plan was now suspended and would only be reconsidered if the government saw “no alternative”.
“I think it’s fair to say most people probably instinctively don’t like the idea,” Javid said. “I’ve never liked the idea of saying to people ‘you must show your papers’ to do what is just an everyday activity. But we were right to properly look at it and look at the evidence. What I can say is that we’ve looked at it properly and whilst we should keep it in reserve as a potential option, I’m pleased to say that we will not be going ahead with plans for vaccine passports.”
The digital NHS Covid Pass is still available via the NHS app or in hardcopy form. This can be used for overseas travel or for events and venues that wish to include vaccination status as one of their own conditions of entry.