THE developer behind the Protect Scotland app has claimed it would be "possible" for the country to run a vaccine passport domestically amid increased pressure to jag younger Scots.

NearForm, the Ireland-based developer who created ‘Protect Scotland’, the contact-tracing app downloaded by around two million people, confirmed they were working on such technology.

They say that it would be up to the Scottish Government to "get people’s confidence in it" if plans were to progess further - however The Herald understands the app is not being developed directly for Scotland.

Health secretary Humza Yousaf has so far ruled out introducing the passports for domestic use such as allowing entry to bars and nightclubs.

It comes as concerns have been raised about the “alarming decline” in the number of Scots being vaccinated, as the programme rolls out to younger age groups.

Figures from Public Health Scotland showed about 30% of 18 to 29-year-olds and 20% of 30 to 39-year-olds in Scotland have not had their first dose of coronavirus vaccine yet – despite every adult being offered a first appointment.

HeraldScotland: NearForm developed the Protect Scotland appNearForm developed the Protect Scotland app
Larry Breen, the chief commercial officer at NearForm, confirmed that technology is being developed for to store proof of vaccination and test results – adding that it would be possible for domestic use.

The First Minister previously confirmed plans to replace paper vaccination records with a digital format, but the question over use of certificates to attend things like clubs has been subject to debate.

Mr Breen told BBC Scotland’s Lunchtime Live programme: “What we’re looking to do is obviously provide proof of people’s vaccination, proof of their recovery, or proof that they have had a valid test that shows they have a level of protection for travelling around.

“So, the vaccine certification process is providing that ability, either digital or paper version, as a scannable QR code that allows people to travel internationally – but some countries will be using it for other reasons.”

Asked about the potential roll out the app domestically, he added: “Is it possible for Scotland to use it? Yes.

“Obviously they would have to clearly make the decision that they wanted to move in that direction and modify what they are doing accordingly and do that in consultation with the public and make sure people understand the rhymes and reasons for doing that.

“The reason we know technically it is possible is we are seeing that happen in other jurisdictions, but again it is not compulsory, it’s not mandatory, it’s not something that can be hoisted upon people.

“It is something that needs to be done for the greater good and obviously it needs to get people’s confidence in it that it’s the actual right way to go forward.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson told the programme that work continues on introducing a digital record of Covid vaccine status for “outbound international travel”, adding, “as the First Minister has said, more details will be set out in the coming weeks.”

It comes as one of Scotland’s top public health experts backed a trial of the passes for people in “very close contact indoor environments”.

Edinburgh University’s Professor Linda Bauld told The Times: “I’m not talking about trialling it for going to a concert or the theatre etc, but for nightclubs specifically I think it would be interesting to trial it and see how that goes.

“I’m sympathetic to that argument and for international travel but not more widely. I think there’s too many issues and inequality is associated with it.”

On Wednesday, Scottish Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser said: “What we’ve seen is quite an alarming decline in the numbers being vaccinated.

“On Monday the daily first doses of the vaccine hit a three-month low, only 2,483 people were vaccinated with a first dose on Monday, so we are really struggling to meet this key group.”

He said requiring a vaccine passport or proof of a negative coronavirus test to attend large-scale events like nightclubs or concerts is a “reasonable proposition”.

In England, full vaccination will be a condition of entry to clubs and other venues with large crowds from September and Boris Johnson has refused to rule out applying a similar rule for busy pubs.

Mr Yousaf told Good Morning Scotland he is “naturally, instinctively sceptical” about vaccine passports, saying groups representing young people have told him of fears these could “increase the inequality gap”.

HeraldScotland: Health Secretary Humza YousafHealth Secretary Humza Yousaf

But he added: “I wouldn’t rule it out entirely.

“We are making incredible success with our vaccination programme rollout, so I would like to look at what we can do to be proactive, as opposed to denying young people entry to a pub or a night club, I would much rather think about positive incentives.

“In extremis we might have to think about what else we might need to do in order to get more of the population vaccinated, so it protects us all.

“We wouldn’t rule it out entirely, but it’s certainly something I am instinctively quite sceptical about.”

His comments came after figures from Public Health Scotland showed just under a third (32.1%) of adults in their 30s have been double-jabbed, with the figure for 18 to 29-year-olds at 20.5%.

Meanwhile 69.6% of 18 to 29-year-olds have had a first dose of the vaccine, along with 80.8% of people in their 30s.

Interim Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alistair Carmichael insisted however that a vaccine passport scheme is “probably one of the most pointless and divisive exercises you can imagine”.

He said: “They will leave behind those who are not vaccinated for good reason or otherwise.

“If you have got everyone vaccinated then, frankly, you wonder whether it would be worth the expense and hassle.

“To threaten people in order to get the vaccine I think is the wrong approach altogether and I think it would be massively divisive.”

Mr Yousaf said there are a “mixture of reasons” why some younger people have not come forward to be jabbed – including hesitancy and “misconceptions” around the vaccine.

He said: “There’s a number of young people, they think that Covid doesn’t affect them and it is something that affects older people.

“Of course that isn’t the case, it doesn’t matter what age you are, you can not only get infected with Covid but get seriously ill and hospitalised with Covid.”

He said the Scottish Government is putting a “lot of effort into messaging to tackle those myths”, as well as having health boards give out vaccinations at places popular with young people, like at football matches and in shopping centres.

But the Health Secretary said: “We’re talking about a non-mandatory vaccination, so as such we have to accept there will always be a percentage that just will not come forward.”