NICOLA Sturgeon has apologised for "deeply regrettable" problems with Scotland's vaccine passport app as she insisted it now works well. 

The First Minister said the high level of demand after its launch, combined with an error, meant information "wasn’t being sent quickly enough from the NHS system to the app".

She acknowledged this caused "extreme frustration", adding: "I apologise for that."

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross said the app was a "shambles" and problems with it are ongoing. 

He called the scheme "a complete and utter embarrassment". 

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said it was a "predictable disaster", with the app "rushed out last minute". 

Ms Sturgeon said there will effectively be a "grace period" for the scheme's first two weeks before it starts to be enforced from October 18.

Even then, she said, council officers will only resort to enforcement when other options are exhausted. 

The NHS Scotland Covid Status app was made available to download on Apple and Android devices just 12 hours before the scheme came into effect on Friday morning.

Scots now require proof they have had two doses of the Covid vaccine to enter nightclubs and many other large events. 

But within hours, complaints flooded social media from Scots struggling to access their details.

Frustrated users were told "something went wrong" or "no match found".

Football clubs due to trial the scheme over the weekend told fans they would not turn anyone away following the glitches. 

Speaking in Holyrood, Ms Sturgeon said: "I am grateful to all businesses, organisations and individuals who are working to implement the scheme.

"The app which we can opt to use to show evidence of our vaccination status became available for download last Thursday afternoon.

"I am of course well aware that many people found it extremely difficult to use the app initially.

"In particular, many found that the app was unable to locate their vaccination record from the information that they provided. This problem was especially acute over Thursday evening and Friday.

"I know this caused extreme frustration for users who wanted to download the app as quickly as possible, and also for businesses and events organisers who were planning to test their certification arrangements over the weekend. I apologise for that.

"The problem was not with the app itself but with the NHS systems that it links to.

"Essentially the high level of demand after the launch of the app – combined with an error in one part of the NHS system – meant that information wasn’t being sent quickly enough from the NHS system to the app.

"This also, for a period, caused problems for those requesting paper copies of vaccination certificates, or seeking to download a PDF.

"However, improvements to remedy the problem were made to the NHS system on Friday evening.

"Indeed, I can report that the initial backlog of people waiting for their information to be matched had been cleared by Saturday lunchtime."

Ms Sturgeon said the Government will continue to monitor the app's performance. 

She added: "In relation to football fixtures over the weekend just past, while they had agreed that no fan would be turned away if they were unable to provide evidence of their vaccination status, both Hearts and Rangers tested their certification arrangements and managed to check around 20 per cent of their crowds.

"Scottish Government officials met yesterday with those clubs, together with Aberdeen, Celtic, Hibs and the managers of Hampden, to consider and learn any lessons from the weekend experiences.

"We are also continuing to engage with the other sectors required to implement certification."

Ms Sturgeon said Covid certification remains "a proportionate way of encouraging people to get vaccinated, and also of helping large events and night-time hospitality to keep operating during a potentially difficult winter". 

In addition to the app, she said, it is also possible to download a PDF or order a paper copy of a vaccination record from the NHS Inform website.

Ms Sturgeon said: "As indicated last week, the first two weeks of the scheme will effectively be a grace period in relation to enforcement, while businesses and users become accustomed to the new rules.

"However during this period we expect businesses to implement and test their approach to certification - and to prepare their compliance plan -  so that they are fully prepared by 18 October.

"At that point, the regulations will become enforceable by local authority officers.

"Those officers – as has been the case throughout the pandemic –will use what we call the four Es approach. They will engage, explain, encourage and only then - if those options are exhausted - will they enforce."

Ms Sturgeon said almost 380,000 people had downloaded the app as of midnight on October 3.

Mr Ross called on the First Minister to accept "the scheme wasn't ready to be launched and should have been delayed". 

He called for it to be scrapped altogether. 

Speaking afterwards, he said: "This scheme has been a total embarrassment since the day it launched.

"The First Minister can’t even put a number on how many people tried and failed to download the £600,000 app over the weekend.

"It’s extraordinary that Nicola Sturgeon won’t accept that this disastrous policy should have been delayed, after such a chaotic start."

Mr Sarwar said the scheme raises "severe equality issues".

He said: "The app requires either a driving licence or a passport. Almost a third of Scots adults don’t have a driving licence. Over 20% don’t have a passport. 

"That figure is likely to be higher in the very communities that have higher levels of vaccine hesitancy.

"Not to mention the issues with digital exclusion, you still need to go online to get the PDF."

He added: "The First Minister is making this up as she goes along.

"If we want to drive up vaccination we should be going door-to-door to convince those we know are hesitant and making it easier to just walk in for an appointment rather than doubling down on this mess."