Covid Scotland: Nicola Sturgeon confirms nightclub definition as rules revealed for vaccine passports

Hospitality bodies have claimed confidence has been left “shattered” by the definition of a ‘nightclub’ reached under Scotland’s new vaccine passport scheme as Nicola Sturgeon called for “common sense” to be applied to the rollout.

Tuesday, 21st September 2021, 2:35 pm
Updated Tuesday, 21st September 2021, 5:47 pm

The First Minister outlined the definition of a ‘nightclub’ in a statement to the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday as she confirmed Scots would need to prove their vaccination status at large events with more than 10,000 people and in nightclubs from October 1.

The scheme, which will apply to indoor and outdoor events and large sporting events including football matches, will operate under a “common sense” approach, Ms Sturgeon told MSPs.

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Nightclub goers will have to show evidence of their vaccine status to enter under Scottish Government plans.

She said the scheme will cover venues which 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 of the above conditions must be met for a venue to require vaccination passports, she said.

It will apply to venues for live indoor unseated events of more than 500 people, live unseated events outdoors of more than 4,000 people, and any event of more than 10,000 people, including football matches.

But industry bodies warned more venues would be affected under the definition reached by the Scottish Government than expected, with the Scottish Beer & Pub Association calling for extra guidance to be published immediately.

Association chief executive Emma McClarkin said: “The announcement today 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.

"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.”

UKHospitality’s executive director for Scotland, Leon Thompson, said: "Not sticking to the stated aim of vaccine certification for nightclubs has brought the potential for businesses serving alcohol after midnight within scope.

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

Explaining how the system will work, Ms Sturgeon 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 that I have just 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.”

At smaller events, Ms Sturgeon said, QR code scans or visual checks of every attendee’s vaccine certificate will take place, while discussions are still underway around the scale of checks at larger events such as football games.

Everyone under the age of 18 will be exempt from the requirement to provide their vaccination status, as will those who took part in vaccine trials, those unable to be vaccinated, and those working at venues which require vaccination passports.

The 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 a paper copy also available.

The scheme will come into force at 5am on Friday, October 1 and further detail on the scheme will be published later this week.

The announcement of the details of the vaccine passport scheme was criticised by Scottish Labour, with Anas Sarwar claiming the scheme continues to have “big gaps in detail” and criticised “limited engagement” with business.

Ms Sturgeon was also attacked for using the Welsh vaccine certification scheme – implemented by a Labour government – to justify the Scottish equivalent.

Calling for proof of a negative test to be included in any entry scheme, Mr Sarwar said: “The First Minister wants to pretend this is the same one used by the Welsh government. That is at best disingenuous.

"The Welsh scheme is either a vaccine or a negative test and I repeat to the First Minister, making sure someone is negative going into a venue is more important than whether they’ve had a vaccine."

Responding, Ms Sturgeon labelled the Scottish Labour leader “deeply disingenuous, opportunistic” and accused him of “changing his own goalposts at every turn”.

The Scottish Conservative’s health spokesperson, practising GP Sandesh Gulhane, criticised the lack of notice businesses will have to implement the scheme.

He said: “The SNP government’s vaccine passport scheme, which we opposed, comes into force next week and the First Minister is still finalising guidance and businesses are worried about the impact this will have on them.”

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