Speaking on Good Morning Scotland, Humza Yousaf defended the vaccine passport exemption in place for attendees to the COP26 climate change conference saying that enforcing it would discriminate against countries with a less developed vaccination programme.
He said: “In the actual blue zone, where the agreement has to be reached between the UK Government, the UN, the Scottish Government… In terms of public health measures, what we don’t want to do is discriminate against, for example, the global south.
"We know that the impacts of climate change are felt far greater in the developed world and therefore where vaccine uptake, vaccine supply has not been as good... what we don’t want to do is discriminate and exclude those people.”
Mr Yousaf added that if anyone attending the summit wishes to visit late night venues while they are in Glasgow they will be subject to the vaccine passport scheme “just like anybody.”
He admitted that as the country prepares for its “most challenging winter ever”, COP26 only adds to the pressure already facing the NHS due to people “mixing, gathering and meeting.”
He said: “Large scale events like COP26, even if there is not, and we hope there won't be any such thing, as a major Covid-19 outbreak, that’s still tens of thousands of people descending upon the city of Glasgow, who may well have heart attacks, strokes, slips, trips and falls.
"Therefore, all of those factors combined can really add pressure to the health service.”
The vaccine passport exemption – confirmed earlier this week – sparked fury from hospitality groups while Scottish Labour said it would add “insult to injury” for businesses forced to abide by the certification rules.
Spokesperson for the Scottish Hospitality Group, Stephen Montgomery, questioned the decision and asked whether a nightclub venue or COP26 would pose a bigger risk to public health.
He said that thousands of people descending on Glasgow from all over the world without requirement for vaccine certificates undermines the reasoning behind forcing businesses to follow the rules in the first place despite already facing pressures such as staffing shortages.