Court strikes down businesses’ challenge to ‘disproportionate’ Scottish vaccine status scheme

Written by Louise Wilson and Sam Trendall on 1 October 2021 in News

Party leaders clash over regime that comes into effect today

Credit: PA

As a court struck down a business-led challenge to the incoming Scottish vaccine status regime, Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross labelled plans a “complete farce” and urged the Scottish Government to delay the scheme. 

But Nicola Sturgeon, responding at First Minister’s Questions, argued that while the plans were “far from ideal”, they were an important step in keeping levels of the virus down.

Regulations requiring larger venues check the vaccination status of customers before entry came into force today at 5am. The scheme will not be enforced until 18 October to give businesses enough time to get used to the arrangements.

Once the scheme is introduced, citizens will be required to provide proof of vaccination in order to gain entry to a nightclub, or indoor and outdoor unseated events with more than 500 or 4,000 attendees, respectively, and all events with more than 10,000 people in attendance. Large events will not need to check every single attendee but rather ensure spot checks are undertaken on "a reasonable number" of people, the Scottish Government has indicated.

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Status can be evidenced via the NHS Scotland Covid-19 app, which embeds details of person’s vaccine record in a secure QR code. Another mobile application has been made available for venues to allow staff to verify these codes.

Those without access to mobile technology can request a “secure un-editable paper record of vaccination”, which the Scottish Government said includes a unique QR code, as well as “enhanced security features, such as thermodynamic ink to prevent forgery”.

Yesterday, the Scottish Court of Session ruled against a challenge from affected businesses who had argued the scheme was “discriminatory” and “disproportionate”.

Judge Lord Burns concluded it was “an attempt to address the legitimate issues identified in a balanced way”.

He added it was subject to scrutiny at the parliament and would be reviewed by ministers regularly.

The Scottish Conservative leader said this proved the scheme was “not ready”.

Ross argued MSPs had not been given sufficient time to properly scrutinise the regulations, adding there was even a “lack of understanding from the SNP about their own policy”.

He said: “Businesses have never had a tougher time than right now, but they’re getting guidance on vaccine passports at the very last minute and the evidence case for them – if it can be called that because there’s barely any evidence for this policy – appeared before a Scottish Parliament committee for the first time this morning. There are so many flaws littered throughout this scheme and proper consideration hasn’t taken place.”

The first minister welcomed the Court of Session ruling, adding: “This is a targeted and proportionate way to try to reduce the harm that the virus will do over the winter months, while keeping our economy fully open, fully functioning and fully trading. The judgement from the court… recognises both those reasons and the way in which the government has gone about this.”


About the author

Louise Wilson is a journalist at PublicTechnology sister publication Holyrood, where this story first appeared. She tweets as @louisewilso.

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