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Industry responds as Scottish Parliament backs COVID Passport requirement for clubs and ‘analogous premises’

By | Published on Friday 10 September 2021


The Music Venue Trust and Night Time Industries Association have responded to the vote in the Scottish Parliament yesterday backing the introduction of a COVID Passport scheme covering clubs and some other venues from the start of the next month. The MVT has expressed concern about the ambiguities in the proposals that were voted through, while the NTIA says that an already fragile night time economy in Scotland is now on a “dangerous path to devastation”.

New rules will come into force next month in both England and Scotland which will mean that clubs – and some other venues and events – will have to check the vaccination status of customers at the door, only allowing in those who have been double vaccinated and who can prove it via a COVID Passport.

The Scottish government published details of how it sees the COVID Passport scheme working yesterday, ahead of the vote on the proposals in the Parliament. But, says MVT, those details are, well, lacking quite a bit of detail, in particular regarding what specific venues will be covered by the new requirement beyond conventional nightclubs.

MVT explains in a statement: “While we are pleased to see smaller gatherings for live music recognised in the framework as lower risk and therefore excluded from the policy, the statement issued by Scottish government acknowledges that it does not yet contain a definition of the type of premises to which it wishes to apply these entry requirements. It suggests it will apply to ‘nightclubs and analogous premises’ and that it is ‘consulting with the relevant sectors’ to create an appropriate definition of the term ‘nightclubs'”.

Ministers in Scotland have been made aware, by MVT and others, about the problems caused by the current ambiguities regarding which venues will be covered by the new rules. There are also challenges around implementation of those rules that the government’s statement did not address, MVT adds.

Regarding the possible scope of ‘analogous premises’, MVT notes: “The activity the Scottish government asserts presents a serious enhanced risk is dancing closely together in enclosed spaces. The ‘analogous premises’ in which such activity takes place therefore potentially covers a huge range of pubs, bars, restaurants, wedding venues, hotels, conference centres and pretty much everywhere where celebrations through a community activity are being enjoyed”.

It goes on: “As it stands this Scottish government policy amounts to an attempt to exclude some people from going somewhere at some time, without proving adequate information on when, where, who or how. In doing so it potentially disproportionately penalises young people, excluding one in four of them from the late night economy, and people from diverse backgrounds, excluding nearly 50% of them from the late night economy”.

“There are no details provided on how exemption should be managed, and we therefore assume that the Equality Act 2010 must be applied in full with the resulting confusion around evidence required to be shown to establish exemption”.

As for the impact on those venues which do end up being covered by the new rules, MVT says: “No financial support has been offered to deliver this policy, and none offered to mitigate the impacts it will have on business. This is despite details of the cost of delivery and likely business impact being provided to Scottish government by MVT and many others”.

Adding that, as an organisation, it is neither for or against “the imposition of health certification” in this next phase of the COVID pandemic, MVT concludes: “We remain committed to working with Scottish government to ensure the protection of public health through any deliverable, reasonable and equitable control measures that the government believes will have a practical impact on transmission risk”.

“The policy as it stands fails all these tests. We hope that Scottish government will now actively engage with the sector to seek to resolve these challenges. This must happen swiftly so that public confidence in the policy, specifically public confidence among the actual participants in the night time economy, is established”.

NTIA – the membership of which includes many clubbing businesses that will definitely be covered by the new requirement – was even more critical. Which isn’t surprising, given that it has hit out a number of times at the plans to introduce a similar COVID Passport requirement in England.

Its CEO Michael Kill says: “The Scottish government has targeted the late night economy throughout this pandemic. Our industry has gone to exceptional lengths to support the public health strategy in Scotland, and have been led to believe that consultation would be considered and enacted upon, but instead, we have been met with empty promises and hollow words”.

“Thousands of people in Scotland’s night time economy have lost jobs, businesses are overburdened with debt and many have not survived”, he adds. “The call for evidence from the Scottish government has been ignored, and has left us no option but to challenge this, as an industry in the coming weeks, or we will suffer the catastrophic consequences of ill thought out policy”.