The question that we must now consider is whether the Covid passport plan will work

Tuesday September 14th 2021


Craig Hoy MSP, South of Scotland, writes his monthly column for Midlothian View.

Coronavirus is the biggest threat that this country has faced in decades. The pandemic that it has provoked has made us challenge long-held beliefs about the way in which we live our lives, the role of the state, individual freedoms and the finely balanced relationship between our rights and responsibilities.

The public health emergency has forced many of us to set aside significant doubts about the interventions taken by Government.

A silent killer was ravaging our care homes and indiscriminately killing our friends and family members. The stakes were simply too high not to take unprecedented action.

The question that we must now consider is whether the Covid passport plan will work and whether it is the most effective way and the most practical mechanism to prevent the on-going harm caused by Covid.

Until a matter of only a few days ago, senior SNP figures appeared to be against Covid passports.

Speaking about the United Kingdom Government’s plans, the SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford raised “serious concerns over ethics”. He said that there were concerns about “equity, ethics and privacy”.

Mr Blackford is not the only member of the SNP to pivot on a pinhead on Covid passports. When the Deputy First Minister John Swinney was asked about the merits of barring the unvaccinated from certain events, he said: “I think it’s the wrong way to handle it.”

What about Mr Swinney’s coalition partners? Green MSPs Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater last week voted for measures that they vehemently opposed only a fortnight ago. That is despite Mr Harvie’s belief that vaccine passports “could set a dangerous precedent for the longer term”.

The Greens have traded in their tandem for a pair of ministerial limousines and that they have left their principles on the pavement.

And in their haste to rush out vaccine passports, the SNP Scottish Government has failed to prepare the Scottish public and Scottish businesses for the introduction of the system, they have failed to present any evidence supporting the use of vaccine passports in a society with a high vaccine uptake, and they have glossed over legitimate concerns about civil liberties.

What is being proposed means that, for the first time, Scots will have to provide private medical information to strangers in order to access some of the most basic things in our society. Critics say that that will create a two-tier Scotland: the have vaccines and the have nots.

There are still big questions to answer.

How will the equipment be rolled out? When will the beta testing of the app take place? Who will man the checkpoints? Who will pay for them? We found out last week that it will be hard-pressed businesses all over again. What will we do for those people who do not possess smartphones? How long will it take for the authorities to make and distribute the paper certificates?

What evidence do they have that to suggest the policy will increase vaccine take-up? And even if it does, will it not undermine testing, creating a sense of reassurance that nightclubs are Covid free?

What will those with medical conditions do? I have asked the SNP Government to guarantee that the exemption scheme will be operable from 1 October. They did not answer.

So far, these concerns have yet to be addressed by the SNP Government.

I believe that the Scottish Government should stop, pause and consult further on the concerns that have been raised about Covid passports.

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