Scottish vaccine passport must be ‘scrapped for good’ despite update
The SNP Government must accept its Covid passport scheme has failed and “scrap it for good”, the Scottish Labour party has said – despite an update giving enhanced protection to user privacy.
The last-minute tweak to the vaccine certification platform announced by ministers last week will “only add to the chaos that customers and businesses are already facing”.
The Scottish Government is now asking users to download a new version of the app in an effort to fix its “widely-reported data privacy issues”.
The controversial scheme provides digital proof that users have had two doses of the vaccine – a legal requirement to enter nightclubs and large outdoor events such as music festivals from 18 October.
As a result of the “planned changes”, people should update the ‘Covid Status’ app and businesses should update the customer ‘Covid Check’ app to ensure that the QR codes show a green tick when scanned.
The green tick will replace the dates of vaccination currently displayed on the app and will reduce the amount of personal health data being shared.
Jackie Baillie, Scottish Labour’s health and Covid recovery spokesperson, said no update can fix the “shambolic system”.
She added: “Just days after the SNP’s botched vaccine passport came fully into force, they are already scrambling to change it.
“It will not come as a surprise to anyone that the app is riddled with flaws, after the SNP forced the scheme through with virtually no consultation. These updates will only add to the chaos that customers and businesses are already facing.”
Murdo Fraser, Scottish Conservative shadow cabinet secretary for Covid recovery, said: “The SNP Government promised that their vaccine passport app would be ready by the end of September. The app was broken on launch, and night time businesses described scenes of chaos and confusion in the first weekend of the scheme.
“Now the SNP have quietly launched new updates to fix the app’s widely-reported data privacy issues – issues which should not have been there in the first place.
“The fact that the SNP are still trying to get this app right, weeks after their vaccine passport regulations came into force, is completely unacceptable.
“There has been no public information campaign to raise awareness of this launch, and it is not yet clear if the old versions of these apps will still work after today.
“Once again, the SNP have left struggling hospitality businesses to deal with the inevitable public confusion and frustration, alone.”
Alex Cole-Hamilton, leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, said: “Businesses should not have to be monitoring the government’s website for 2am updates to find out what is expected of them. It’s no way to run a business and a ridiculous way to run a country.
“Covid ID cards have been a prime example of government overreach. What’s worst is they won’t keep anyone safe because it’s so easy for people to cheat the system.
“The government should be ploughing resources into the things we know do help to stop the spread: vaccines and a robust contact tracing system.”
The UK Information Commissioner, Elizabeth Denham, said: “My office has been advising governments across the UK on how to ensure privacy is considered from the outset.
“We expect to see high standards of governance and accountability to ensure compliance with data protection principles, including transparency, fairness, data minimisation and storage limitation, and utilising a ‘data protection by design’ approach as part of their planning.
“We have also highlighted the need for clear and practical guidance to support nightclubs and other venues required to carry out these checks.”
Since its initial launch at the beginning of this month, the NHS Scotland app has been hit by a series of technical difficulties, with many users struggling to link the information they put into it with their medical records.
It left many unable to verify their identity or download their Covid vaccination certificates.
And last week, it was revealed that a key security feature cited by the Scottish health secretary does not work.
Humza Yousaf’s claim in a radio interview that it was impossible to take screenshots of information displayed on the passport app were disproved – meaning the scheme is vulnerable to fraud and abuse.
Health secretary Humza Yousaf said: “The rollout of the green tick display when QR codes are checked will reduce the amount of information shared and confirm only that a person has a valid certificate for use across Scotland. The app is now working well after being introduced more than two weeks ago and updates are an important feature of this kind of technology to ensure it continues to run smoothly.
“Everyone who has the app should download the new version and those who don’t yet have the app should download it from their app store before they need to use it.
“I understand the night time industry has made major adjustments for the introduction of this scheme and other measures, but the sector has complied extraordinarily well with the regulations so far. This is a very limited scheme and we hope this will allow businesses to remain open and prevent any further restrictions as we head into autumn and winter.
“I also want to ensure that as many people get vaccinated as possible and particularly to increase uptake in the younger age cohort, so anything to incentivise that is helpful.”