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Ministers to debate vaccine certification status requirement

By David Porter

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The issue of vaccine certification where entry to some venues is dependent on people being able to show that they have been fully vaccinated was raised by the First Minister today as she confirmed that its limited introduction will be brought forward.

She said: "In recent months there has been a lot of discussion about vaccine certification and, as I have indicated before, the Government has been considering very carefully whether - notwithstanding the understandable equity and ethical concerns - vaccine certification could in some settings help protect public health, reduce the necessity for any further restrictions, and also of course boost vaccine take up.

"The Scottish Government has made it clear that we do not believe that vaccine certification should ever be a requirement for any key services or in settings where people have no choice over attendance – for example, public transport, education, access to health services or shops.

"And we continue to hold very firmly to that position.

"But we do consider that a limited use of vaccine certification could help to control the spread of the virus, as we head into the autumn and winter.

"For any decision of this nature to have an impact before winter, we would have to take and implement it quickly.
"However, I recognise that it is a significant decision so, in my view, it should be expressly authorised by Parliament.

"I therefore propose that we have a full debate and vote on this matter next week."

Setting out what the Government has concluded would be appropriate she explained: "We propose, subject to Parliamentary agreement, that vaccination certification should be introduced later this month – once all adults have had the opportunity to be fully vaccinated - for the following events and venues:

"Firstly, nightclubs and adult entertainment venues.

"Second, unseated indoor live events, with more than 500 people in the audience.

"Next, unseated outdoor live events, with more than 4000 people in the audience.

"And, lastly, any event, of any nature, which has more than 10,000 people in attendance.

"We don’t currently consider it appropriate to introduce certification for the hospitality industry as a whole, and we hope that will not be necessary. "However, we will keep that under review.

"We are also very aware of the need to take account of people who - for good reason - cannot get fully vaccinated with both doses of vaccine.

"So for example we envisage that children and people with particular medical conditions would be exempt.

"However we consider that to help protect individuals and the country as a whole and reduce the risk of further restrictions being necessary, those over 18, who are eligible for vaccination, should be required to show that they have received both doses of the vaccine before entry to the premises and events I mentioned.

"It is already possible to request that a paper copy of your vaccination record be posted to you to allow you to travel.

"However from this Friday onwards – well in advance of any certification scheme coming into operation - we will also provide a QR code.

"That means you will be able to download a copy of vaccination record to keep on a phone or print off.

"The introduction of Covid vaccine certificates – even in the limited circumstances that I have set out above - is a significant move, and not one we would ever take lightly.

"That’s why I believe it should have Parliamentary approval in advance.

"But it is worth stressing that although we have had to weigh this decision carefully, we would be in no way unique in taking this step.

"The UK Government has announced an intention to introduce certification for England.

"And several European countries – including France, Italy and Ireland – have already introduced certification.

"In fact, the certification rules in several other countries cover a far wider range of venues than the ones we are currently considering for Scotland.

"Many of the events and venues that are covered by any certification scheme are important – they matter to our economy, and to our cultural and social life.

"That’s why we want to enable them to stay open safely.

"But they are not essential services.

"And the nature of them, which involves bringing many people together in relatively small areas does mean that, despite their very best efforts - and I know they make efforts, their best efforts - they can continue to contribute significantly to the spread of the virus.

"By ensuring that people entering these settings are fully vaccinated, we would be taking a proportionate step to help make these settings safer for everyone attending and, by extension, for all of us.

"As I said earlier, I fervently hope that - vaccine certification aside - we do not have to impose any further legal restrictions.

"But of course that depends on all of us making a concerted effort now, through our own behaviours, to stem transmission."

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