Why Nicola Sturgeon stands alone on Covid vaccine passports

Nicola Sturgeon is something of a lone wolf when it comes to vaccine passports – in the UK at least.

Having got the go-ahead from the Scottish Parliament for a requirement for vaccine status to be shown before someone enters a nightclub or large-scale event, Ms Sturgeon is set to introduce the scheme on October 1.

However, the UK Government, which had previously announced it would create a similar scheme in England, has suddenly done an about-turn, sneaking out the news in a Sunday TV interview. The Welsh government is so far sitting on the fence, due to debate the issue this week, while Northern Ireland has no plans to introduce them.

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First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is a lone wolf in the UK on the issue of vaccine passports. Picture: PA

Predictably, there has been an outcry about the implementation of the scheme.

The head of the SPFL has mooted concerns about how 30,000 people’s passports would easily be checked at a match, while nightclub owners have dubbed the scheme a “financial disaster” for the industry.

The Scottish Government is already trying to soften its stance, saying spot checks could be an option for those attending events such as football games, rather than blanket proof of vaccination.

Yet it is clear the real issue here is not the practicalities of a vaccine passport.

There are many ways these problems could be addressed. QR codes could be quickly uploaded when someone buys a ticket, or they could be scanned on the door as someone enters a venue.

Advice could be taken by speaking to hospitality and sporting counterparts in France, where vaccine passports have been in use for the past month – and far more widely than they will be in Scotland.

In reality, they are a political issue.

Right-leaning libertarians believe, rightly or wrongly, in the right to live normally without a mandatory vaccine. The UK Government’s U-turn is no doubt political, after facing strong opposition from some factions of the Tory party.

Such a scheme does not sit comfortably with the Tory ethos, nor in a country which, unlike most of the rest of Europe, will not countenance the idea of a national ID card.

Ms Sturgeon is so far holding out against this political and social pressure, insisting the passports are a key part of the defence against Covid. But it will have taken significant resilience for her to do so.

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