Tories call for delay to vaccine passport after app hit by technical issues

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The Scottish Tories have repeated calls for Scotland’s vaccine passport scheme to be delayed after users were hit with technical issues.

The NHS Scotland Covid Status app was released shortly after 5pm on Thursday, around 12 hours before the scheme was set to begin.

But users reported on social media a number of issues with verifying their identity, meaning they could not display their status.

PA Graphics
(PA Graphics)

The Scottish Government said the issues were caused by a high volume of users trying to access the app at the same time.

More than 70,000 people downloaded the app on Thursday, the Government has claimed, and capacity in the system has been increased.

A previous push for a delay by the Night Time Industries Association Scotland was rejected by the Court of Session on Thursday and pleas from Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross at First Minister’s Questions also went unheeded.

But Mr Ross has now repeated calls for a postponement to avoid what he said could be a “weekend of chaos” as the certification is set to be used for access to large events and nightclubs.

However, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon this week said a grace period would be in effect from the start of the scheme, meaning venues will not be liable for enforcement action before October 18, to allow the systems to be properly implemented.

Mr Ross said on Friday: “The SNP Government has just a few hours to act quickly and prevent a weekend of chaos at venues across Scotland.

“Thousands of people will be at the football and going out to hospitality premises this weekend. At an incredibly challenging time, businesses will lose out if this app is still not working.

“This plan should really be scrapped altogether but if the SNP insist on charging ahead, they must indefinitely delay the vaccine passport scheme until the most basic issues are ironed out.

“Nicola Sturgeon must go back to the drawing board. This is becoming an omnishambles – the SNP’s scheme is lurching from one issue to the next, all at the very last minute.

“Nobody should miss out because of SNP incompetence. The Government must guarantee compensation to any person or business who loses out solely because the SNP can’t deliver a working app that’s been in development for months.

“The SNP must order an emergency stop to this policy now, before it hurts businesses and jobs. So far, they have arrogantly ploughed on regardless, against warning after warning from the opposition and business.

Nicola Sturgeon in Holyrood
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon rejected calls to delay the scheme on Thursday after a court gave it the green light (Jeff J Mitchell/PA)

“Why won’t Nicola Sturgeon just accept she’s got this wrong?”

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said on Friday: “More than 70,000 downloaded the app yesterday.

“This huge demand did mean that some people experienced delays and we are sorry that happened.

“We have now increased the capacity of the NHS systems that sit behind the app – where most of the issues causing delays have occurred – in order to deal with demand and, as a result, we are seeing increasing numbers of people now able to access their records.”

Dr Christine Tait-Burkard, an infection expert at Edinburgh University, told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme on Friday that the vaccine passport plan “may persuade some of the hesitant people” to get jabbed, although she also revealed she had been unable to get the new app to work.

Dr Tait-Burkard said: “Larger studies on international travel showed that (proof of vaccination) is increasing the vaccine uptake between 5% and 10% in the younger generation, which is exactly what we need.

“And in France, we see that the more day-to-day life gets curtailed by the need of having a vaccine passport, that has again driven uptake very clearly.”

But Dean of the Faculty of Advocates, Roddy Dunlop QC, described the app as the “worst I have ever tried to use”.

He wrote on Twitter: “I am not prone to hyperbole. I promise.

“And I instantly recognise that I was originally instructed to challenge the introduction of Covid passports and so am not neutral.

“But try the app; look at the comments below. This is, literally, the worst app I have ever tried to use.”

Scottish Labour health spokeswoman Jackie Baillie said: “The launch of the Covid status app has been a complete shambles.

“I have already been contacted by several constituents complaining that the app crashed on them.

“It is typical of the SNP to rush this out when it clearly doesn’t work.

“This is embarrassing for the Scottish Government, they need to get a grip and fix the app urgently.”

Meanwhile, Scottish Lib Dem leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said any trust in the scheme “crumbled” after the launch and urged the Information Commissioner to step in.

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