Scottish airport chaos: SNP ridiculed over paper forms instead of digital Covid pass

·4-min read
Digital International Certificate of Covid-19 vaccination and Passport - E+
Digital International Certificate of Covid-19 vaccination and Passport - E+

Scots will be “disadvantaged” at airports because the SNP Government has not developed a digital Covid pass for international trips, travel industry leaders have warned.

It is feared that Scots could face lengthy queues at airports and could be banned from using e-gates as, unlike in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, there is only a paper-based system to prove vaccination status.

SNP ministers had promised that “fully digital” travel certificates would be available by this summer, but despite Scotland agreeing to a major relaxation of international travel rules from next week, a system is yet to appear.

The EU has also developed an app for residents in member states. However, in Scotland, travellers must either request a pass online and then print it out themselves, or wait up to two weeks for a certificate to arrive in the post.

“Scotland is being disadvantaged if, as a country, we can’t join the rest of the UK and the EU in a digital vaccine certification app,” Joanne Dooey, president of The Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association, said.

“It’s not a great reflection of our place in the world that we’re continuing with a paper-based system.

“We urgently need the Scottish Government to bring forward a digital version of a vaccine certificate which can be integrated with the EU version and systems. We need this to be prioritised.”

Scots already face increased costs for going abroad as, unlike in England, they cannot use cheaper private providers for Covid-19 tests.

Gordon Dewar, the chief executive Edinburgh Airport, said: “We are still in a bizarre situation of people from Scotland having to use a paper certificate that will generate queues when those from England and Europe have access to an app that will allow the use of faster e-gates in Scottish airports.”

The Home Office is currently drawing up plans that would see passenger locator forms used to confirm vaccination status for passengers arriving into the UK.

It is thought that passengers would declare their status on the forms, which are filled in online, with spot checks to then be carried out by the Border Force.

However, it is not known what system other countries will use to verify vaccination status. Nicola Sturgeon has suggested an app proving vaccination status may not be ready until the autumn.

An industry source said: “We were told to expect an app in the summer, but it's the middle of summer now and we’ve heard nothing.

“Almost everyone these days has a smartphone, so it’s ridiculous that we’re still relying on paper systems which could cause problems with e-gates and is far more inconvenient.”

From Monday, people arriving into Scotland from the EU or US will no longer have to quarantine, if they are fully vaccinated, after the Scottish Government agreed to changes proposed by UK ministers.

The changes have been hailed as a major boost to the country’s tourism industry, with overseas visitors worth £11 billion a year to the economy before the pandemic struck.

However, Mr Dewar warned that there is unlikely to be a return of direct flights from Scotland to the US this year, as the US still has a travel ban in force for people from the UK.

“We had the announcement from one of our American carriers in the last week that sort of pretty much given up on 2021 and we’ll come back in the spring ‘22,” he told the BBC.

“So that’s disappointing, and I think you know the fact that the Americans haven’t reciprocated does constrain the possibility of them changing their mind this year.

“These routes obviously rely upon two-way flows to be viable."

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Checking of Covid status certification for travellers inbound to the UK is undertaken by carriers at the departure port. The experience on arrival in the UK is the same for all passengers whether they have a digital status certificate or a paper-based one.

“We continue to work towards replacing the record of vaccination status with a digital record of Covid Status, which will include vaccination and testing data to be used for international travel.”

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