Covid Scotland: Legal challenge to Scottish Government’s Covid vaccine passport plans

The Scottish Government is facing a legal challenge over controversial plans to introduce vaccine passports for nightclubs and some other large events.

The Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) confirmed its lawyers were to commence proceedings, with the Scottish Government facing calls to ditch the plans – which are due to come in next week – as a result

It comes after concerns were raised that the definition of nightclubs drawn up by the Scottish Government could impact on parts of the hospitality industry.

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The NTIA said the scheme – which is due to come into effect in Scotland from 5am on Friday October 1 – raises “serious issues with definition, market distortion, discrimination, resource allocation and economic impact amongst others”.

Covid Scotland: Legal challenge to Scottish Government’s Covid vaccine passport plansCovid Scotland: Legal challenge to Scottish Government’s Covid vaccine passport plans
Covid Scotland: Legal challenge to Scottish Government’s Covid vaccine passport plans

The statement continued: “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.”

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The organisation said it 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”.

But it added: “Unfortunately, this has not happened.”

The legal challenge was confirmed less than 24 hours after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon set out more details of the scheme, including the definition of a nightclub.

This covers venues that are open between midnight and 5am, which serve alcohol after midnight, and have music for dancing as well as a dancefloor.

The scheme means people will have to prove they have had both doses of a coronavirus vaccine before entering.

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

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She said: “A vaccine certification scheme is not about making life difficult for businesses, it’s about trying to use a proportionate measure to keep transmission of the virus under control over the winter, so that we can keep businesses like nightclubs and big events open and operational rather than them facing potential closure again this winter as they faced last winter, so it’s about trying to keep the economy open.”

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”.

He said: “The NTIA has had no choice but to take the SNP Government to court, after their concerns have been repeatedly and deliberately ignored by the Government.”

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