Business confidence 'shattered' for Scotland's late-night operators as rules revealed for Covid vaccine certificates

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Business confidence 'shattered' for Scottish hospitality operators as rules revealed for vaccine passports

Related tags Scotland Vaccine passport Night-time economy

Confidence among late-night operators in Scotland has been 'shattered' after the country's Government set out a broader-than-expected definition of what will constitute a 'nightclub' under its forthcoming vaccine certificate scheme.

Earlier this month it was announced that so-called 'vaccine passports' would be required for crowded venues in Scotland from next month​, meaning people over the age of 18 will need to show they have had both doses of the vaccine before they are allowed entry to nightclubs and other large-scale events.

At the time trade bodies warned that the scheme will put the country's already fragile night-time economy on a 'dangerous path to devastation'.

In a statement to the Scottish Parliament yesterday (21 September), First Minister Nicola Sturgeon outlined the definition of a ‘nightclub’ as she confirmed the measure would come into effect from 5am on 1 October.

She told MSPs the scheme will cover venues that are open between midnight and 5am, serve alcohol after midnight, plays live or recorded music for dancing, and has a designated space for dancing that is in use.

All four conditions must be met for a venue to be required to check Covid vaccine certificates. 

She said: “In legal terms, venues will be required to take ‘all reasonable measures’ to implement the scheme – in plain terms, that boils down to using common sense.

“So, for example, a venue that has a dancefloor operating after midnight – and meets the other criteria I have outlined – will have to operate the certification scheme.

“However, they won’t need to check people coming in for a pub lunch 12 hours earlier - that wouldn’t be reasonable, but by the evening, it would be reasonable to check customers as they arrive.

“That’s what we mean by common sense. A pragmatic approach will be encouraged, so that businesses can make sensible judgements.”

As well as nightclubs, 'vaccine passports' will be required in Scotland for unseated indoor live events with more than 500 people in the audience; unseated outdoor live events with more than 4,000 people in the audience; and any event, of any nature, which has more than 10,000 people in attendance.

Following the First Minister's statement, trade bodies warned more venues would be affected under the definition reached by the Scottish Government than expected.

The Scottish Beer & Pub Association (SBPA) has called for extra guidance to be published immediately.

“The announcement by the First Minister will cause concern amongst many operators who previously believed that they would not have to certificate, now falling within scope with this definition," says Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the SBPA.

"It goes far beyond what any reasonable person would consider to be a nightclub and could capture many pubs and bars across the length and breadth of Scotland.

“It is absolutely vital that the accompanying guidance and regulations are published immediately, so that businesses understand whether or not they are in scope, what they can do to remove their businesses from scope, and how this will be properly implemented.

"There are several major operational challenges to implementing this policy and unfortunately some businesses may not be able to be compliant by 1 October.

"We urge the First Minister and the Scottish Government to look at this again.”

Leon Thompson, UKHospitality’s executive director for Scotland, says the broader-than-expected definition of what will constitute a 'nightclub' has brought the potential for businesses serving alcohol after midnight within scope of the scheme, shattering confidence among the industry.

“UKHospitality Scotland argued for a narrow definition, similar to that which the Scottish Government used when allocating financial support during lockdown," he says.

"The decision to go broad will impact on even more of our most vulnerable businesses, many only just reopened and struggling with crippling and ever mounting debts.

“With only days until vaccine passports come into force and no guidance or public information available – nor any assessment on business or equality impacts in place-business confidence has once more been shattered, whilst the public is left in the dark on what they need to do in order to enjoy a night out with friends.”

Venues subject to the scheme are able to download a free QR code verifier app to a smartphone or device, and will be required to check a customer’s QR code to ensure the record of vaccination is genuine.

The requirement for full vaccination does not include staff, contractors, performers or volunteers involved in the delivery of the event.

An NHS Covid Status App, which will provide a QR code for each vaccination an individual has received, will be available for download from September 30, with further detail on the scheme set to be published later this week.

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