Carmichael accuses Scottish Government of flip-flopping on vaccine passports

Alistair Carmichael has accused the Scottish Government of flip-flopping on vaccine passports for domestic use.

Way back last December, when questioned by Willie Rennie, Nicola Sturgeon sounded pretty sceptical about them. Here’s the excchange:

WR: With the great news about the vaccine, people will want to know how the restrictions will be eased. As a Liberal, I am nervous about talk of immunity passports for getting into shops and restaurants or on to planes. Putting personal information on to large databases means risks to privacy and the possibility of fraud, hacking and theft. The World Health Organization questions the value of immunity passports, and the UK Government has said that it has no plans to introduce them. I want to go further, and I think that we need guidance. We might need to make changes to the law to protect people from its misuse. What is the Scottish Government’s policy on immunity passports?

NS: I do not think that Willie Rennie or anyone else will have heard me, the health secretary or anybody else talk about the prospect of immunity passports. That is not something that we plan to have or that we favour. I share some of the philosophical and ethical objections that Willie Rennie articulated.

There are also practical issues. We do not yet know—either in relation to the vaccine that has just been authorised or in relation to any of the vaccines—the extent to which vaccination prevents the transmission of Covid. We know from trials that the Pfizer vaccine suppresses illness—it prevents people from getting seriously ill—but we will not know for some time, once the vaccine is in use, whether vaccination prevents onward transmission. From a practical point of view, it is flawed to say that, just because someone has had the vaccine, they cannot pass Covid on to somebody else.

We have no plans to introduce immunity passports, just as we have no plans to make vaccination compulsory, although we will strongly encourage maximum take-up of the vaccine. We will always consider whether legal changes are necessary to support our policy position, but the starting point—which I think, although I do not know, is the starting point for everyone in the chamber—is to make it clear that immunity passports are not something that this Parliament is contemplating.

Fast forward to today, when Nicola Sturgeon told MSPs:

“We continue to consider very carefully the possible, albeit limited, use of Covid status certification for access to certain higher risk venues in future.”

Alistair Carmichael responded:

“We are moving ‘beyond level zero’ which sounds a little like something that would break your calculator if you typed it in. Despite the slightly confusing wording the next step towards relaxing restrictions is good news for many, particularly in the tourism and hospitality trade.

“However, the First Minister has flip-flopped again on domestic vaccine passports. Just last week John Swinney said that wouldn’t be the right approach. Now vaccine passports are not just back on the table, the app paving the way for them is coming to our phones.

“We all know that this government loves centralisation but such a scheme would be a massive imposition on people and on businesses. Instead of spinning the First Minister needs to rule them out for good.”

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  • We need to be ready for whatever might happen in the autumn. This is being responsible. What is the justification for saying that there are no circumstances where those of us who have had two vaccines should not be able to prove this?

  • Steve Trevethan 4th Aug '21 - 1:46pm

    Might the Scottish government also have their attention drawn to the increasing starvation in Scotland?
    Foodbank use in Scotland has risen by almost 80% in five years.,an%20increase%20of%20over%20100%2C000%20in%20five%20years.

  • As a former Trustee, and Chair, of a Trussell Trust Food Bank in Scotland (and as a former Liberal Democrat Convenor of Social Care who has never voted SNP), may I gently suggest Mr Trevethan (from West Dorset, I believe), should exercise caution before so eagerly commenting on issues of poverty and foodbank use in Scotland.

    He overlooks the fact that the biggest expansion of Foodbank use in Scotland came in the years 2010-15 when welfare cuts and austerity changes were introduced by the Westminster Coalition Government (in which Liberal Democrats had some responsibility).

    He also overlooks the fact that welfare and benefits are reserved matters for Westminster (Tory controlled since the Lib Dem demise in 2015).

    However, despite these diffgiculties, the Scottish Government managed to introduce the Scottish Child Payment – (mygov.scot › Benefits and grants 5 Feb 2021). This helps towards the costs of supporting a family with a weekly payment of £10 to every child. In addition from 8 September, 2020 Low-income families with a child under six can apply for and receive £40 per child, per month – equivalent to £520 per year.

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