Martin Whitfield MSP has confirmed that he will join Scottish Labour colleagues at Holyrood in refusing to back the Scottish Government’s proposals for vaccine certification for domestic use.

Speaking in the Scottish Parliament last week, the First Minister stated that it was the government’s intention to introduce vaccine certification for entry to nightlife venues and large events in Scotland.

However, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar has said that the government’s plans are more about an ‘attempt to look in control’ of Scotland’s worsening pandemic and that, rather than encouraging vaccine uptake, the mandatory use of domestic vaccine passports could in fact have unintended and opposite effects.

Recent research has suggested that schemes requiring proof of vaccination may actually be more likely to entrench vaccine hesitancy among harder to reach groups.  Labour’s objections to the proposals are also based on practical concerns about whether such a scheme could be effectively implemented and the potential extra burden it will place on the hard-hit nightlife and entertainment industries.

Although vaccines have proven effective at reducing the risk of severe disease and hospitalisation, it is still possible for fully vaccinated individuals to pass on the virus. Scottish Labour has said that options for proof of negative test should be explored for large scale events rather than vaccine passports.

Most importantly, the government’s immediate focus must be on fixing the failing Test and Protect system and tackling low vaccine uptake. This should be done by strengthening the vaccine programme through greater use of mobile and walk-in vaccination centres, particularly in schools and areas of low vaccine coverage.

Martin Whitfield MSP said:  

“Many constituents in South Scotland have contacted me over recent weeks to express their concerns about both the concept and practical implications of introducing domestic vaccine passports. I agree and welcome my party’s decision not to back the government’s proposals.

“As Anas Sarwar has said, our opposition to this is about making decisions based on what works, what will make an actual difference and what will help keep people safe. Rising case numbers are again causing extra pressures for the NHS and, even with vaccination, catching the virus can come with significant health risks.

“Research suggests that vaccine passports could actually be more likely to increase or entrench vaccine hesitancy among harder to reach groups. And there is a real risk that vaccine certification could lead to a false sense of security among people who can still transmit the virus to others.

“That’s why Scottish Labour is clear that the immediate and fundamental focus of the government must be on fixing the failing Test and Protect system and pulling out all the stops to ensure maximum vaccine coverage.”