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Vaccine passports for Scottish nightclubs delayed

Venues have just over two weeks to prepare for the new regulations

Vaccine passports proposed for Scottish nightclubs have been delayed for 17 days after the country's nightlife industry body launched a legal challenge to the scheme, which was intended to begin on Friday 1st October 2021. Venue owners and other industry professionals also joined the backlash.

An announcement was made on Tuesday 28th September, with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon making it clear to members of parliament that she now understood venues needed more time to prepare and adjust ahead of the new regulations.

Under the new roadmap for Scotland, rules will technically be in place from 1st October, but a grace period will be honoured until Monday 18th October. The plans mean anyone over the age of 18 will need to prove full COVID-19 vaccination — i.e. both jabs — before entering music venues, unseated indoor events with more than 4,000 people, or any gathering of more than 10,000. 

"The government is persuaded that a Covid certification scheme will help us mitigate the risk the virus poses to us over the winter,” Sturgeon said. “However, the pragmatic compromise that I have just outlined in relation to a staged introduction of the scheme demonstrates, I hope, that we are listening to business about the practical challenges they face.”

Opposition politicians have responded by suggesting this proves criticisms from across the sector were valid, with Douglas Ross, leader of the Scottish Conservative party, stating that the last-minute postponement "reveals just how chaotic the setup of this scheme has been.”

Last week the Night Time Industries Association Scotland (NTIA) contested the initiative's legitimacy, describing the idea in its current iteration as "deeply flawed and incoherent". A team of lawyers were instructed to file for a judicial review of Scottish vaccine passports, with issues including concerns that proposals were drafted without proper consultation on the definition of a 'nightclub'. This means thousands of bars and pubs could potentially be impacted. 

Representatives from sport and industry also voiced concerns about the plans, largely based on infringement of civil liberties. The view is backed by the Scottish Human Rights Commission, which has warned vaccine passports risk discriminating against people from deprived backgrounds and some minority groups. 

Vaccine passports were initially proposed for most countries in the UK, but plans for the scheme in England were abandoned earlier this month, albeit followed by a warning they could be reimplemented with little notice. Wales is currently the only remaining country pressing on with its vaccine passports as originally intended, with the rules due to come into effect on 11th October. Meanwhile, there is an ongoing debate on the issue in Northern Ireland.