DOUGLAS Ross has voiced concerns that the introduction of vaccine passports could lead to a black market in fakes.

The Scottish Conservative leader, who has already raised “significant reservations” about the idea, made the comments in a new Herald podcast with former BBC Scotland political editor Brian Taylor.

Mr Ross, 38, said he worried that Covid status certificates would create a two-tier society, denying some people a full return to a normal life.

His party is due to launch its manifesto today ahead of the Scottish Parliament election on May 6.

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The UK and Scottish Governments are considering whether paper documents or smart phone apps could be made a condition of entry to public spaces and events.

They could show if a person had received a vaccine, undertaken a recent test or had antibodies.

Many Tory and opposition MPs at Westminster are wary, and last week the UK Government’s own equalities watchdog warned they could be discriminatory.

Mr Ross said he accepted the case for Covid passports for international travel.

However he said it would be unfair to use them at home for restaurants, pubs and cinemas.

The Moray MP and Holyrood Highlands & Islands list candidate said:"Where I don't think there is fairness and it creates a two-tier system is to have it for domestic travel or business - restaurants, pubs, cinemas etc.

"Because there are younger people in particular who will be several weeks, months away from getting a vaccine.

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"So through no fault of their own, they can't get that passport, they couldn't get that access.

"There are others, for very good reasons, a small minority who can't get the vaccine.

"My wife, for example, heavily pregnant, can't be vaccinated. So why should she be treated differently than someone who has been able to be vaccinated.

"So that's why I'm saying, we've got to look at the trials, the trials may resolve some of these issues, but I do have serious reservations that as we all came into this pandemic together, introducing vaccine passports would create a two-tier system coming out of it that I don't think is helpful."

Asked if vaccine passports could stimulate a substantial black market, Mr Ross said: "Absolutely, and the Scottish hospitality industry, I was reading some of their concerns about this.

"One is there's extra work to check everything, and they are worried about fraudulent vaccine passports, and that whole side of things that adds in an awful lot of complexity and uncertainty into the system.

"But the main thing is, if we keep going with the vaccines, everyone gets covered with that, and we start to see an ease of restrictions. I'm hopeful we don't need them at all."

In the SNP manifesto last week, Nicola Sturgeon said her aim would be to freeze the rates and bands of devolved income tax over the next five-year parliament.

Workers in Scotland start paying more income tax than in England above roughly £28,000.

Mr Ross said his party wanted “parity”, so the tax burden on Scots was the same as on those in equivalent jobs in the rest of the UK, but ideally he would like it make it even lower.

“I would love to do that,” he said. “But I’m realistic in the current situation. We’ve got to secure the economy, improve it."

Elsewhere, Mr Ross insisted he had “absolutely not” been sidelined from the Tory campaign in favour of the party’s better known former leader Ruth Davidson, who led a recent TV broadcast and has been more prominent on many Tory leaflets.

HeraldScotland: Douglas Ross and Ruth Davidson in front of Edinburgh Castle

Launching his party's manifesto today, Mr Ross will announce a string of policies to "rebuild Scotland and focus on recovery", rather than another independence referendum.

These will include a pledge for a £600 million fund over the next year to tackle the NHS treatment backlog.

The party will also vow to set up a £50 million "Cultural Kick Start Fund" to help music venues, heritage sites and festivals recover from the pandemic, with a half price entry programme for heritage sites for the remainder of 2021.

‘The Brian Taylor Podcast’ can be found on Spotify & Apple Podcasts now.