Covid Scotland: Business impact will have played big role in Sturgeon's vaccine passport 'U-turn'

After days of mounting speculation and stark warnings, Nicola Sturgeon's apparent U-turn over vaccine passports will be welcome news for many hard-hit businesses.

The First Minister said the decision not to extend the scope of the scheme, which currently covers nightclubs and large events, was "very finely balanced".

"We have taken account of the fact that, although our situation is precarious, cases are currently stable and indeed slightly declining," she told MSPs.

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"And we have considered the inevitable impact vaccine certification has on the operation of businesses; and concluded that, at this stage, extension would not be proportionate."

Nicola Sturgeon has announced vaccine passports will not be extended in Scotland. Picture: PA

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Importantly, Ms Sturgeon stressed an extension may occur in future as an alternative “to the reintroduction of more onerous restrictions on, for example, hospitality".

This leaves a clear route open if cases start rising again. The groundwork has already been laid and the idea firmly planted.

But the decision not to press ahead still comes as a surprise given recent comments from ministers and the conclusion of an official evidence paper published just days ago.

It suggested Scotland faced a stark choice between bringing back restrictions and extending the passport scheme.

Opposition politicians have long criticised Ms Sturgeon’s approach to vaccine passports and will view the latest decision as a partial victory.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar, in particular, has repeatedly called for the use of lateral flow tests as part of the scheme, something the Government has now agreed to.

He accused the First Minister of wasting months “ignoring experts and the evidence”.

But perhaps it was the impact on businesses that was foremost in Ms Sturgeon’s mind.

The Scottish Chambers of Commerce was among those warning of the economic damage such a move would cause.

Many businesses are relying on a festive boost as Christmas approaches, and the thought of further restrictions will have filled them with dread.

The memory of last winter’s lockdown is painfully fresh.

Ms Sturgeon often refers to how “proportionate” certain decisions are. She used that word five times in her update in Holyrood.

A balance must be struck, she argues.

In this case, the concerns of hospitality venues and others undoubtedly weighed heavily.

But if cases spike, the scales could tip in the other direction.