Covid passport Scotland app: Trust has been 'eroded' as critics say 'people will give up, get a Deliveroo and stay at home instead'

Trust in the Scottish Government’s vaccine passport app has been eroded and could deter people from downloading it, critics have warned, as people reported ongoing problems registering the system on their phones.

Hospitality bosses warned revellers could return to the lockdown days of food delivery services and takeaway alcohol at home rather than bother to download the vaccine passport app, which has been plagued with technical problems.

And Aberdeen Football Club said it would abandon trialling the proof of vaccine scheme for its match against Celtic this weekend and allow fans in regardless of vaccine status.

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This comes as the Scottish Government apologised for the tech problems users had experienced and said it had “increased capacity” on its systems.

The vaccine passport app was available to download from last night.

Opposition politicians instead called for the government to order an “indefinite delay” to their plan and said the First Minister should guarantee compensation to anyone who misses an event or any business who loses income solely because the SNP’s app does not work.

The government said the tech problems had been caused by a large number of users trying to access the app at once.

The Information Commissioner’s Office said it was in contact with the Scottish Government to ensure that its vaccine passport complies with data protection law.

Stephen Montgomery, spokesperson for the Scottish Hospitality Group, said: “People just aren’t going to bother. They’ll try to download the app and then give up and think ‘let’s get a Deliveroo and stay at home instead’.”

He said “hybrid venues”, which offer food, but may also fall into the Scottish Government’s definition of a late night venue, would have to ask diners if they planned to stay until after midnight before taking a booking – even though restaurants do not require a passport.

The Scottish Government recently outlined that a ‘late night venue’ means it is open between midnight and 5am, serves alcohol after midnight, provides live or recorded music for dancing and has a designated space that is used for dancing.

Mr Montgomery said the problem could see businesses losing out on customers who opt to go elsewhere, where the passport is not needed.

“If you get people who want to make a late dinner booking, at say 10pm, you’re going to have to ask them how long they plan to stay,” he said.

“They’re not going to know whether they’ll want to be there past midnight, so there will be the question as to whether they need to prove their vaccine status – and most of them will probably think ‘let’s not bother and go somewhere else’."

Although the passports are required from this weekend, the Scottish Government announced earlier this week that it would give a two-week grace period to businesses before the regulation is enforced.

Mr Montgomery added: “It just goes clearly to show that while it was easy for the government to say that they would give businesses an extra two weeks to prepare because they aren’t ready, it is the government which isn’t ready too.”

The app, which launched on Thursday night, has seen users complaining that they cannot register for the passport showing that they have been double vaccinated – which is required to enter nightclubs, or large events from today.

People trying to register on the NHS Scotland Covid Status App were being told by the app that ‘something went wrong’, ‘no match found’, or they were ‘unsuccessful’ in registering their details. When these messages pop up, the app informs the user: “We apologise for the inconvenience. Please try again later or contact our support team.”

UKHospitality Scotland executive director Leon Thompson said the problems were another blow for a sector “struggling to get back on its feet”.

He said: "The problems being encountered do nothing to help either consumer or business confidence. Although there is no enforcement of the policy until October 18, many people may be deterred from going out to late-night venues this weekend because they have been unable to get the app to work.”

Last week, UK Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said trust was “key to the success” of the passport scheme and there should be “high standards of governance and accountability to ensure compliance with data protection principles”.

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Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “The Information Commissioner’s Office says trust is both necessary and key to the success of this scheme. What little confidence existed crumbled last night.

"The launch was shambolic. Thousands of attempts to access Covid ID cards hit the buffers.

“I warned that the IT wouldn’t be ready or up to the job when the First Minister first unveiled this SNP/Green assault on medical privacy. The government has had a litany of tech problems during and before this crisis. Once again it can’t even get the basics right.”

He added: “The Information Commissioner should intervene to stop this scheme now.”

A spokesperson for the Information Commissioner’s Office said: “We are in contact with the Scottish Government to provide further advice on how privacy must be considered at the centre of any mandatory vaccination and Covid status scheme. We are currently considering their approach to make sure it complies with data protection law and ensures the trusted and responsible sharing of personal data to protect public health."

Scottish Labour health spokesperson Jackie Baillie said she had been contacted by constituents who had struggled to access the app.

She said: “The launch of the Covid status app has been a complete shambles.”

Scottish Conservatives leader Douglas Ross described the situation as an “omnishambles”.

He said: “Thousands of people will be at the football and going out to hospitality premises this weekend. At an incredibly challenging time, businesses will lose out if this app is still not working.

“This plan should really be scrapped altogether, but if the SNP insist on charging ahead they must indefinitely delay the vaccine passport scheme until the most basic issues are ironed out."

He added: “Nobody should miss out because of SNP incompetence. The government must guarantee compensation to any person or business who loses out solely because the SNP can’t deliver a working app that’s been in development for months.”

Aberdeen FC said it could not implement the government’s guidance, which it had been sent on Friday.

The club said in a statement: "We’ve gone to extraordinary lengths to pull off our test plans for Sunday’s game, but having just received quite lengthy guidance today, it’s impossible to digest and train our staff and stewards in less than 48 hours and, as a result, no-one will be asked to show proof of vaccine.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “More than 70,000 downloaded the app [on Thursday]. This huge demand did mean that some people experienced delays and we are sorry that happened.

"We have now increased the capacity of the NHS systems that sit behind the app – where most of the issues causing delays have occurred – in order to deal with demand and, as a result, we are seeing increasing numbers of people now able to access their records."

The launch of the app, which allows uneditable QR codes to be scanned at the door of venues, came on the same day the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) Scotland lost a legal bid to delay the rollout.

People who do not have a smartphone can order a paper copy of their vaccine record. However, this usually takes a number of days to arrive.

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