NICOLA Sturgeon is being urged to scrap Scotland's vaccine passport scheme for late night bars and clubs as she prepares to publish an updated strategic framework on Covid tomorrow.

The call is being made by hospitality bosses who are also demanding an end to the legal requirement for customers and staff to wear face masks in licensed premises.

Their demand comes ahead of the publication of the Scottish Government's updated strategic framework on living with Covid which is expected to set out how ministers will manage the ongoing pandemic.

Wales and Northern Ireland ended the mandatory use of of vaccine passports, pictured below, last week, while the measure was scrapped as a legal requirement to enter certain venues in England in January.


Scotland's vaccine passport scheme was introduced last year with the aim of enabling events to go ahead despite surging cases of the virus and encourage the uptake of the vaccine in younger people. Critics, including hospitality chiefs, said there was no evidence that the measure did increase vaccine take up.

The rules were updated in December so everyone (unless medically exempt) attending settings covered by the scheme had to show they have been fully vaccinated, or that they have a record of a negative rapid lateral flow test (LFD) or PCR taken within the previous 24 hours of entry to a venue.

As well as being required for large sporting events, since October Covid status certificates have been needed to get into late night premises with music, which serve alcohol at any time between midnight and 5am and have a designated place for dancing for customers. 

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Stephen Montgomery, spokesman for the trade organisation the Scottish Hospitality Group, which opposed the introduction of vaccine passports, told The Herald he wanted the Government to lift the measure as well as the law on wear face coverings in pubs, restaurants and similar venues. 

He called for the latter legal requirement to be downgraded into guidance instead and added that the UK governments's advisory body Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) had found people were more likely to catch Covid in shops rather than in hospitality venues.

"The hospitality trade lost a £1 billion trade in Scotland alone in December. If we are going to survive, we need the regulated restrictions axed and put into guidance," Montgomery told The Herald.

"What needs to completely go is Covid certification, that has had no benefit at all and reduced customer confidence.

"Once you put restrictions in place for a particular sector you are naming that sector as a risk. Yet SAGE found people were more likely to contract Covid in retail than in hospitality.

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"Hospitality is the only place where you have track and trace, Covid certification and face coverings. Retail have nothing apart from face coverings. Vaccine passports have got to go for hospitality to restore customer confidence."

Currently customers and staff in pubs and restaurants are legally obliged to wear face masks in bid to reduce the virus spreading.

Montgomery argued the rules were confusing as someone walking across the bar with a drink was not required to wear a mask, while someone crossing the room to go to the toilet was.

"The wearing of face coverings should be put into guidance," he said.

"We have to put trust in the public. People are well aware of where they feel safe or don't. Businesses should be trusted to make their environments safe."

"We lost £1 billion in turnover in December alone. We have lost more than 1000 businesses and the sector needs to recover."

Tracy Black, CBI Scotland Director, said: "The publication of a new Strategic Framework for living with the virus will mark an important step as Covid shifts from the pandemic to endemic phase. Firms will hope it signals the end of the cyclical restrictions that have hit jobs and livelihoods hard.

“While the Scottish Government was absolutely right to move quickly to combat the risk posed by Omicron, we now need to start rebuilding confidence to ramp-up Scotland’s economic recovery.

"Against a backdrop of rising business costs and difficult trading conditions, that means helping beleaguered firms to get back to normal operations as best as possible – as well as encouraging customers to go out and support the businesses they really value.”  

In her Covid update to Holyrood on February 8, the First Minister suggested some restrictions would be lifted with "on-going use of vaccination" a key part of the new framework.

She said the document would "set out in greater detail our approach to managing Covid more sustainably and less restrictively" in the remaining phases of the pandemic and as the virus becomes endemic.

Many governments in Europe and elsewhere introduced Covid passport schemes for some venues. The countries that introduced them first, Israel and Denmark, had both started to phase their schemes out in the summer, but then revived them after cases increased again.

The Israeli ‘Green Pass’ is available to vaccinated individuals, people with natural immunity from infection, and for 24 hours after a negative rapid test result. The pass is valid for six months after recovery from Covid or a final vaccine dose, whether that is a second dose or booster.

Denmark’s ‘coronapas’ initially allowed entry to venues like hairdressers and bars but was extended in autumn 2021 to other settings, including public transport, some education settings, restaurants, bars and indoor events. From 1 February, it was no longer required after most Covid controls were removed.

Meanwhile, the Scottish Lib Dems leader Alex Cole-Hamilton, who has fiercely opposed vaccine passports, has today stepped up his calls for them to be axed.

Ahead of Ms Sturgeon's new Covid strategy being published tomorrow, he stated:

"Tomorrow the First Minister should call time on her illiberal and ineffective Covid ID cards and commit to working with data privacy experts to ensure personal information is deleted and the infrastructure underpinning these ID cards is not put any other use."