Top figures in business have welcomed the announcement that Scotland’s Covid passport scheme will be scrapped from Monday – with some hoping it will lead to a return to pre-pandemic normality.
Nicola Sturgeon told the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday afternoon that Covid passports will no longer be needed to allow access to certain venues after the start of next week.
The scheme was introduced in October last year, as cases dropped back down from then-record highs in late summer and early autumn.
From the start, it was subject to considerable criticism from some politicians and businesspeople across the country, who said it discouraged people from going out at a time when many venues were struggling to bounce back from the impact of lockdown.
Passport ‘did put a lot of people off’
Aberdeen club owner Tony Cochrane was among the most vocal opponents of the system, describing it as a “complete farce” after an update to the certification app was launched.
Mr Cochrane, who runs Club Tropicana and Private Eyes in the city, said he believed business would start to rise back to pre-pandemic levels from next week.
He said: “It did put a lot of people off, especially groups of people, because if one person didn’t have the passport the whole group wouldn’t come and it spoilt the evenings for a lot of people.
“Some people had their own reasons for not taking it, other people never had any chance to do the full vaccination. It takes a good three months between vaccination one and two and so on.
“That caused a lot of problems.”
Scheme lasted for six months
The Covid passport scheme required people to show certification to a business to prove they had been vaccinated against the virus to get into nightclubs, indoor unseated events with more than 500 people, outdoor unseated events with more than 4,000 people or any event with more than 10,000 attendees.
In December, the regulations were changed to allow people to gain access with a negative lateral flow test.
Nightclub manager Grant Leslie had been preparing to reopen The Priory on Aberdeen’s Belmont Street later that month, but pushed back the plans after new restrictions were introduced to tackle the Omicron variant.
Instead, the venue welcomed back customers for the first time on January 26, and Mr Leslie said he believes the latest news will result in more people coming to his dancefloor.
He said: “Hopefully it will encourage more people to start coming back out again, because the amount of messages we got over Facebook to ask what the script is to enter the venue – it’s put a lot of people off, and now that they’re seeing this, it’ll give them hope to start going to bigger events again too.”
He added: “It now lets us go full pelt, in terms of bigger events.
“We can actually focus on what we want to do going forward with the year rather than having worries about having to hold off on doing certain events because of capacities.”
Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce also welcomed the announcement, with Policy Director Ryan Crighton saying the new framework offers “some welcome steps towards normality”.
Businesses ‘suffered major losses’
Ms Sturgeon said venues will be able to continue to use the certification if they choose to, and the app will continue to function as normal after Monday.
The first minister confirmed the scrapping of the scheme while also giving an update on face coverings, which will no longer be compulsory from March 21.
UKHospitality Scotland Executive Director Leon Thompson said: “The removal of compulsory vaccine certification to enter late-night venues from next week is extremely welcome.
“These businesses have been required to undertake checks since last October and have suffered major financial losses as a result.
“However, it is disappointing that the compulsory use of face coverings and test and protect in hospitality venues will remain in place until 21 March.
“Again, it would be better to let businesses and customers decide on the best way to manage risk sooner.”