The industry body representing Scottish nightclubs has launched a legal challenge to the Holyrood government’s plans for vaccine passports.
The planned requirement for people over the age of 18 to show proof of vaccination to gain entry to nightclubs and large-scale events comes into force in Scotland on 1 October.
But the Night Time Industries Association Scotland (NTIA) describes the plans as “deeply flawed and incoherent”, and has now instructed lawyers to seek a judicial review of the proposals.
The group said the scheme has been drafted without meaningful industry consultation and that the definition of “nightclub” set out by Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish first minister, is likely to impact thousands of other bars and pubs.
The Scottish government has faced repeated criticism over the plans from opposition parties concerned with infringement of civil liberties as well as sports and industry leaders who have described them as unworkable and a threat to livelihoods.
Despite some Scottish ministers previously expressing reservations about vaccine passports, including Patrick Harvie, the co-leader of the Scottish Greens who last week entered a power-sharing agreement with the Holyrood government, Sturgeon insists they are “proportionate” as a tool to curb rising Covid infections before the autumn.
On Tuesday, Sturgeon set out the definition of a nightclub drawn up for use with the scheme, this being a venue open between midnight and 5am, serving alcohol, having a designated area for dancing and providing live or recorded music for this purpose.
She said a “pragmatic approach” would be encouraged, “so that businesses can make sensible judgments.”
But the head of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, Liz Cameron, immediately responded that it would extend to many more hotels, pubs and other venues than expected with “thousands” of businesses now caught up in the rules, “with little time left to understand, plan and implement them before the deadline”.
Mike Grieve, chair of NTIA Scotland, said: “Having disregarded input from NTIA Scotland in discussions since the vaccine passport policy was announced, and having forced a rush vote through Scottish parliament, the Scottish government have now confirmed that this deeply flawed and incoherent policy will come into effect from 1 October, focusing the negative attention on one small subsection of society, and all the economic damage on the sector already most affected by the pandemic”.
Scottish Labour’s Finance and Economy spokesperson, Daniel Johnson, said the legal challenge “plunges the SNP’s misguided vaccine passport scheme into yet more chaos”.
“SNP ministers have provided no impact assessment, no details on what business will need to do or even how the criteria will apply with only days before these measures will be brought in. It is no wonder trade bodies feel forced to challenge the government in the courts”.