We have not undertaken any public consultation on these measures. However, Scottish Government Ministers and officials have engaged with a wide range of sector representatives at 3 roundtables and over 14 sectors and stakeholders (Annex A) from a range of specialisms, including events, music, sport, hospitality and the night-time economy, as well as trade unions and the legal profession. They have represented the views of businesses; their diverse feedback has been considered and has informed this impact assessment.
Through this engagement a number of key themes emerged.
Appetite for Certification
Generally business opinion is quite negative, both about the scheme in principle and how it is being introduced. However, unions are more positive. The Broadcasting, Entertainment, Communications and Theatre Union (BECTU) stated that their members are keen for the scheme to be in operation in their workplaces, even in venues which are not currently in scope of the scheme. Their members want to be safe at work and see this measure as one way for that to happen.
The views of football fans were shared by the Scottish Football Supporters Association, noting the key findings of a recent survey of 900 fans on the proposed introduction of Certification for stadiums hosting over 10,000 attendees:
- 51.6 % are currently in favour of Certification proposals if it allows them to access football.
- 43.3% oppose the proposals (5.2% are undecided).
- However, when asked the question of 'Vaccine Passports vs crowd limits", 68.7% said they would back the proposal if it increased/maintained the crowd capacity. Fans are pragmatic and think Certification is the lesser of the two evils.
- 61.2% say they would feel far safer attending a fixture if all fans are vaccinated against 20% who do not feel that way and 20% uncertain.
- 81.7% feel that if Certification has to be implemented then the cost of the implementation should be met by the Government.
Direct costs to ensure compliance and enforcement
There are concerns about having enough staff to implement the new scheme, given that the affected sectors are already facing a shortage of qualified stewards and front of house staff in general, as well as concerns for staff safety from both Covid and potentially dissatisfied customers/public order issues. One Scottish Professional Football League club advised SG officials that despite seeking around 450 stewards to ensure adequate staffing for home games, they are struggling to get 350. Hospitality sectors have highlighted that many businesses affected will not normally have door staff and therefore this requires significant recruitment and there is evidence that there is not a sufficient supply or staff for this.
Due to this shortage of personnel, businesses have concerns about having to check all customers. They expressed concerns that this could cause unacceptable delays for customers to enter venues, potentially leading to crowd compression and therefore greater risk of transmission. If a sampling approach ("spot-checking") was acceptable, they would want to know what kinds of samples are appropriate. There was a strong preference for "spot-checking" from larger venues, but also smaller ones, such as late night venues with music, alcohol and dancing, which have proportionately fewer staff available to check customers' vaccination status. The percentages have to be balanced against the aims of the scheme from a public health perspective, as a low amount of spot checking may severely reduce the effectiveness of Certification in reducing transmission risk.
Costs are a concern mentioned by many: costs of new scanners, as stakeholders consider that it would not be appropriate for staff to use personal phones to scan QR codes; additional staffing costs; and other infrastructure. Upon providing stakeholders with further information about the technical infrastructure, the cost infrastructure concern reduced, but the staffing issue remained live. It has been suggested that requiring QR code checks at our largest sports stadia would require around £35,000 in mobile technology investment as stewards are not allowed to carry their own devices while on duty.
The impact on business profitability has been raised consistently, with many sectors highlighting that their members are already running with high levels of debt (between £95,000-£150,000 on average) due to closures during the pandemic. Therefore, a reduction in customers or an interruption to normal trading will put some business premises in a more difficult financial position.
Businesses are also concerned about the potential increase in the cost of their insurance, if they are unable to staff doors with qualified door staff, which for some may be a condition of their insurance cover. The hospitality industry reported that it can take up to 3 months to complete all training and checks for newly trained and accredited door staff.
Complexity and justification of the policy
There are concerns about the time it will take to properly understand the final scheme, acquire the right equipment, and train staff to fully implement these new measures.
There is generally a strong desire for more information about how exactly this scheme would work on the ground, and to provide more information about the decision-making process on, for example, why producing a negative test result is not allowed as an alternative measure.
There is a desire to understand the purpose and goals of the programme are. It was made clear that the primary aim is to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19, and the secondary aim is to boost vaccination rates across the population. The Night Time Industries Association questioned the public health benefit of Certification.
Scope of settings
There has been some concern about which businesses would and would not be covered by the scheme. The possibility of market distortion caused by customers going to venues that did not require certification is a live concern. Even when two venues are in scope, stakeholders raised that customers might prefer to go to a venue that enforced Certification to one that did not. The definition of late night venues with music, alcohol and dancing, covering all venues with similar activity, has been used to avoid any impact falling on a small set of venues. Instead, it aims to provide a level playing field for late night venues.
Businesses have suggested a range of ways in which the definition could be adjusted, each of which would affect the group of businesses in scope for Certification. Businesses recognised, however, that wherever the line is drawn, the final definition would likely include some businesses that did not expect to be in scope at the time of the original announcement.
Changes to Terms & Conditions
Businesses that had already sold tickets are concerned about how to deal with changes to terms and conditions and what the legal position is regarding ticket refunds.
Legal process and equality issues
The legal profession is concerned about what they see as lack of scrutiny of the Regulations before coming into law, and also stated that an Equality Impact Assessment (EQIA) would be necessary for this measure not to be deemed discriminatory, as well as a Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA). The night-time sector has also raised concerns that they may face legal challenge on equality grounds from any customers who they are required to refuse entry.