Scotland’s digital vaccine certificates for Covid-19 launched today in the form of a downloadable PDF backed by a unique QR code.

The online system was revealed in a tweet by health secretary Humza Yousaf after a political row broke out about the legitimacy of requiring citizens to prove their vaccine status in a range of scenarios.

Opposition parties accused the SNP-led government of “wasting months” of preparation time and introducing the scheme at the “last minute”.

Other labelled the system as a form of ‘Covid ID cards’ and urged the new partners in the coalition government – the Scottish Greens – to “stand up” to the measures.

Former Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: “I agreed with Patrick Harvie when he stood firmly against this measure in recent weeks. But I am alarmed that he and his colleagues may vote for it next week.

“If Patrick Harvie doesn’t stand up to the SNP on this important issue he will be pushed around for the rest of the parliament.

“The coalition government is crossing a line. To move from the state encouraging people to get vaccinated to compelling them to do so is a major step. 

“The IT system can’t cope with the current demand for vaccine passports for foreign travel so I can’t see how it will cope with this massive increase in demand.

“We know government often fails when it is managing massive IT projects and this one is being done in a rush so I fear the consequences of this for people and businesses across the country.”

Scottish Conservative Leader Douglas Ross said: “After wasting months that could have been spent making proper preparations, the SNP Government is now introducing vaccine passports at the last minute. 

“It’s a striking u-turn from what John Swinney said last month, where he emphatically claimed vaccine passports were “the wrong way” to go.”

Airport bosses were also critical of the proposed new system, which they branded a ‘sticking plaster’ solution. They have accused the Scottish Government of lagging behind other home nations across the UK in introducing a fully functional app. The scheme also appeared different to an app pledged last month which Danish firm Netcompany was contracted to deliver.

A spokesman for Edinburgh Airport said: “An app that was promised for summer and now maybe being delivered in the autumn. The Scottish Government’s concept of time certainly isn’t the same as everyone else’s, and time is not a gift we as an industry have. 

“Despite asking for a functioning app many months ago and watching countries across the world introduce their own, we are now left with a sticking plaster of a QR code scheme that is not guaranteed to be accepted abroad. We are again left to question why the Scottish Government has failed to deliver this, and shake our head at the continued lack of support for the aviation and travel industries which the government itself had admitted has been two of the hardest hit.”

The Scottish Government said the Covid-19 certification scheme – subject to a vote in parliament next week – will be required to enter certain events and higher risk venues, such as nightclubs, music festivals and some football grounds. It will only be introduced once all eligible adults have had the opportunity to be double jabbed.

Proof of vaccination will be required later this month to enter:

  • nightclubs and adult entertainment venues
  • unseated indoor live events, with more than 500 people in the audience
  • unseated outdoor live events, with more than 4,000 people in the audience
  • any event, of any nature, which has more than 10,000 people in attendance

From Friday 3 September, people will be able to download a PDF copy of their vaccination certificate, with a personalised QR code, to print off instantly or store on their mobile phone for use domestically or internationally. This is in addition to the existing paper letters that can be requested from NHS Inform and the Covid Vaccine Status helpline.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “We do not want to reimpose any of the restrictions that have been in place for much of this year as we all know how much harm they have caused to businesses, to education and to people’s general wellbeing but we must stem the rise in cases.

“In addition to measures such as free testing and the installation of CO2 monitors in schools, we believe that a limited use of vaccine certification in certain higher risk settings, could help us to keep businesses open and prevent any further restrictions as we head into autumn and winter.

“They will be for use in very limited settings and never for public services such as transport, hospitals and education. This is a significant step forward and not a decision we have taken lightly but it is in line with certification in other European countries.”

Steven Flockhart, director of cloud engineering at NHS National Services Scotland (NSS), said: “The app remains on schedule to be released by the end of this month. We are working with partners on a final stage of rigorous testing. Once this is complete, the app will meet European Union standards for international travel and allow access to individual vaccination records held by NHS Scotland.”