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Fresh calls for government to drop Covid vaccine passports as £80 million recovery fund announced

The first minister is being urged to end the vaccine passport scheme in Scotland
The first minister is being urged to end the vaccine passport scheme in Scotland

Hospitality firms have made renewed calls for the need for Covid vaccine passports to be dropped in bars and clubs.

It comes as the Scottish Government has announced a new £80million coronavirus recovery fund ahead of Tuesday’s strategic framework update.

As part of the three weekly-review, the need for all statutory Covid requirements, including the vaccine passports and face coverings, will be discussed by ministers.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will then share the updated Covid Strategic Framework in parliament later in the day on Tuesday.

It will set out the approach to managing and recovering from Covid moving forward, including preparation for any future variants.

Ms Sturgeon said: “Our updated strategic framework, which I will set out to parliament on Tuesday, will support resilience in communities across Scotland by outlining robust plans to prepare for possible new variants or other future emergencies, should we need to act to protect public health.

“Of course, the best way to support business sustainably is to act responsibly and to sustainably manage the risks the virus presents as we begin to live the more normal life that we all crave.”

Calls to end passport scheme

Ahead of the framework announcement on Tuesday, hospitality businesses have made fresh pleas to the government to drop the Covid vaccine passport scheme.

Since the end of last year, people have had to show proof of vaccination or a negative lateral flow result to enter certain large events and late night venues serving alcohol.

The mandatory use of vaccine passports was removed in Wales and Northern Ireland last week, and many hospitality businesses believe Scotland should follow suit.

Stephen Montgomery, spokesman from the Scottish Hospitality Group, believes the Covid vaccination certification scheme should end. Photo: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire.

Stuart McPhee, director of Siberia Bar and Hotel, said it would be “sensible” to remove the passports at this point and continue with a four nations approach.

“They’re not serving their primary function to drive the uptake of the vaccine because most people are vaccinated now – they’re not serving much protection,” he said.

“It is just another restriction which gives people less confidence to go out and there’s the economic impact on businesses. Covid passports are not proportionate now.”

Stephen Montgomery from the Scottish Hospitality Group said the Covid vaccine passport scheme has had “no benefit at all” – while calling for the government to drop them.

Speaking to The Herald, he said: “The hospitality trade lost a £1billion trade in Scotland alone in December. If we are going to survive, we need the regulated restrictions axed and put into guidance.

“What needs to completely go is Covid certification, that has had no benefit at all and reduced customer confidence.

“Once you put restrictions in place for a particular sector you are naming that sector as a risk. Yet Sage found people were more likely to contract Covid in retail than in hospitality.

“Hospitality is the only place where you have track and trace, Covid certification and face coverings. Retail have nothing apart from face coverings. Vaccine passports have got to go for hospitality to restore customer confidence.”

Funding for economic recovery

The £80million Covid Economic Recovery Fund has been launched by the Scottish Government to support businesses and communities in Scotland as they move into a new phase of the pandemic.

Councils will be able to use the funding to support existing schemes, and investment programmes, such as Scotland Loves Local, or individual local authority grant schemes.

A further £3million has been allocated to the City Centre Recovery Fund to support the economy in Scotland’s cities.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will set out plans for managing Covid moving forward. Photo: PA.

Ms Sturgeon said: “This £80million Covid Economic Recovery Fund allows councils to consider the needs of local businesses, communities and households and to target support to maximise economic recovery in their areas.

“We know public health measures which were necessary to control Covid-19 have had a severe economic impact and, since the start of the pandemic, businesses have benefitted from more than £4.4billion in support from the Scottish Government.

“It is our aim to get back to normality as quickly as possible.”

Councillor Alison Evans, president of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla), added: “Cosla welcomes today’s announcement of £80million of flexible funding for councils to use in ways that best support local businesses, communities and low income households.

“This additional funding will enable councils to play an even greater role in supporting economic and social recovery in their areas, as we move out of the Covid pandemic.

“We know that businesses, communities and low income households have been hit hard over the last two years and Local Government has been at the forefront of supporting those most affected.

“The flexibility offered by this funding will enable councils to provide local support where they know the need is greatest.”

‘No right answer’

The Scottish Hospitality Group has always been against the need for vaccine passports in hospitality settings.

As its spokesman, Mr Montgomery has called for Covid requirements to be put into guidance and said businesses should be trusted to keep their staff and the public safe.

UKHospitality Scotland echoed this view stating that putting trust in the venues will help the public make their own decisions on socialising in public places.

Executive director Leon Thompson added: “Our businesses have extremely limited cash reserves, record levels of debt and are struggling with rising costs across the board.

“For the sector to emerge from the pandemic in a position to fully play its role in the wider economic recovery of the country, it needs a more stable and predictable operating environment as well as further support.

“The strategic framework must deliver that.”

Nicky Turnbull, owner of Cognito Cafe in Aberdeen, said leaders are in a difficult position and there is not a “right answer” moving forward.

“I think everyone just wants to be back to normal as soon as we can,” she told BBC’s The Sunday Show.

“As little restrictions as possible to let us try to get capacity back – to try to get customer confidence back would only be a good thing.”

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