BAR and nightclub bosses are to launch legal action against the Scottish Government over its vaccine passport plans.

The Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) Scotland said it had instructed its legal team to "commence proceedings".

In a statement, it said the scheme is "neither proportionate, nor represents the lowest level of intervention possible to achieve the public health imperative, and it is therefore likely to be unlawful". 

Vaccine passports will come into force in Scotland for nightclubs and large events from October 1.

Nicola Sturgeon has faced an industry backlash after outlining a definition of 'nightclubs' for the purposes of the new scheme.

Speaking in Holyrood on Tuesday, she said: "I can confirm that our intention is that certification will be required for any venue that meets all of the following conditions: it is open between midnight and 5am; it serves alcohol after midnight; it provides live or recorded music for dancing; and it has a designated space - which is actually in use - where dancing is permitted."

Business leaders warned this would see thousands of hotels, bars and other venues caught up in the plans.

The NTIA said it had been "engaged in dialogue with Government over the last three weeks, and whilst unfortunately that dialogue has not in any way resembled a meaningful consultation between Government and the sector, we remain ready to work with Scottish Government should they choose to take on board the sector's concerns and work collaboratively to find a better and more deliverable solution".  

It added: "This vaccine passport scheme as currently proposed raises serious issues with definition, market distortion, discrimination, resource allocation and economic impact amongst others, and had Scottish Government been prepared to work with sectoral experts in the earliest stages of policy formulation some of these deep rooted problems may have been avoidable. 

"It is also clear to us that the policy as currently proposed is neither proportionate, nor represents the lowest level of intervention possible to achieve the public health imperative, and it is therefore likely to be unlawful.  

"Regrettably then, and given the serious flaws in the policy as proposed, we have now instructed our legal team to commence proceedings against the Scottish Government with a legal challenge to vaccination passports.

"We had hoped that the recent evidence of rapidly falling cases might provide Government with the incentive to look again and take the sector’s concerns into account, and to engage in meaningful consultation where Government and businesses could work together and design solutions that both address our shared goal of reducing the harms from Covid and are also deliverable.  

"Unfortunately, this has not happened, however we remain willing to work with Scottish Government on any policy which both achieves our shared goals and also allows businesses to remain economically viable."

Ms Sturgeon told the PA news agency the definition of a nightclub was "actually quite narrow".

She also stressed that similar schemes "are operating already successfully in many countries across the world and actually on a much more extensive basis than we are proposing here for Scotland".

But with the Tories, Labour and Liberal Democrats all voting against the measure in Holyrood, Conservative Covid-19 recovery spokesman Murdo Fraser argued that the legal challenge was a justified response to an "extreme, damaging and profoundly unfair scheme".

Vaccine passports will be required in nightclubs, live indoor unseated events of more than 500 people, live outdoor unseated events of more than 4,000 people, and any event of more than 10,000 people.