Vaccine passport rule leaves unanswered questions for Cop26

Everyone attending big events in Scotland will have to show proof of vaccination by next month

The SSE Hydro on the Scottish Event Campus in Glasgow, which will be one of the venues for Cop26. Getty
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The mandatory vaccine passports rule in Scotland has caused confusion about the requirements for those attending the Cop26 climate change summit in Glasgow.

Opposition party Scottish Labour has questioned whether those at the event, which begins on October 31, will have to show proof of two vaccines.

From the start of next month, everyone attending a mass event in Scotland will have to present a vaccine passport, under a new rule introduced by the Scottish National Party-led government.

The passports will come in the form of a QR code or on an app, which remains under development. These will be compulsory for indoor seated events of 500 or more attendees.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the passports will also be required at unseated outdoor live events with more than 4,000 people in the audience and “any event, of any nature, which has more than 10,000 people in attendance”.

The policy was met by criticism and opposition from Conservative, Labour and Lib Dem politicians.

The Cop26 summit, which will bring together world leaders, scientists and environmental activists to agree action to tackle the climate emergency, prompted Scottish Labour to table a written question.

Monica Lennon, Scottish Labour’s spokeswoman on net zero, energy and transport, asked whether all delegates and protesters will need to have been vaccinated

Transport Secretary Michael Matheson has said there will be a “bespoke arrangement” for delegates, although no details have been announced.

“The most important global climate summit in history will gather in Glasgow in a matter of weeks,” Ms Lennon said.

“Under the Scottish government’s proposals, it’s unclear whether those attending official Cop26 events in Glasgow or protesting nearby will be expected to prove their vaccination status.

“SNP and Green ministers must urgently clarify what their vaccine passport rules will mean for participation in Cop26.”

Asked about the consequences for Cop26 of the vaccine certification plans, Mr Matheson said: “We’re at the point where there will be bespoke arrangements set out for Cop26 delegates.”

He said discussions were continuing between the UK and Scottish governments and their chief medical officers.

“We are at the stage where those plans are fairly advanced in development and the UK government are expected to announce those in more detail publicly next week,” Mr Matheson said.

He said this will include details of arrangements for delegates travelling from other countries who would not have been vaccinated. It will also address which vaccinations will be recognised.

Mr Matheson said delegates from countries without access to vaccines may have been offered them through a scheme being run by the UK's Foreign Office.

A Scottish government spokesman said protests were exempt from measures requiring vaccine passports at large gatherings.

“The certification scheme would not apply to protests,” he said.

“We continue to work with UK government, Glasgow City Council and other delivery partners on the arrangements for delegates attending Cop26.”

Stuart Patrick, chief executive of Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, said Cop26 would be a unique opportunity for the city to “demonstrate the level in which we can contribute both to solving climate change and to laying the foundations for our next phase of economic growth”.

Denise Hamilton, head of city services and Cop26 operations at Glasgow City Council, urged people to plan ahead when making travel arrangements.

She said: “We knew that hosting an event of such global significance was going to have an impact on the city and the extent of that impact is now clearer.

“To keep Glasgow moving and open for business we need people to know what’s happening and plan journeys ahead of time.”

Updated: November 22, 2021, 8:36 AM