Willie Rennie: 'Pointless' vaccine passports would be 'undercover ID cards'
Willie Rennie has branded vaccine passports "undercover ID cards" and has warned against the idea being brought forward in Scotland.
The UK Government has confirmed plans to develop a COVID-status certification system over the coming months, which would take into account vaccination, a recent negative test or natural immunity from a positive test in the previous six months.
The pass could allow settings in England considered higher-risk to be opened up with more participants. It's a concept that Nicola Sturgeon has refused to rule out in Scotland.
However, Rennie, leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, has been clear about his party's opposition to the idea, previously saying it would be "grossly unfair" to those who have yet to receive a COVID-19 vaccine or those who have been advised not to get it.
Today, he said they were "a bit pointless", adding that the best way to suppress the virus was through vaccine uptake, testing and people's behaviour.
He said: "We're sensitive about this, we're on alert because we know the propensity of governments to try and hoard this kind of information.
"But we actually think it's a bit pointless because the best way of suppressing the virus is to increase the number of people who get the vaccine, the testing, the behaviours to make sure it doesn't spread.
"And once we've got it down to a decent level, we can come through this pandemic together, united, rather than leaving half the population behind us in the meantime.
"That's why we're particularly sensitive about the undercover ID cards... because it's a backdoor route to try and get them."
The Scottish Government has not formalised any plans for vaccine passports and the First Minister said practical and ethical issues would need to be "carefully" thought through.
She said yesterday: "What I think we need to do with the concept of vaccine passports or vaccine certification is not close our minds to it.
"We all want to get back to normal so anything that can play a part in getting us back to normal, is something we should think about very carefully, but nor should we just gloss over the practical on ethical issues that we have to think through properly. And I think if we're going to have a system of vaccine certification, then it's really important that if the public has confidence in that.
"And If there's to be an acceptance of that, then we have taken the time openly, not behind closed doors and government buildings, but openly with the public to air all of the issues and air some of the challenges."
She said there were still "unanswered questions" on the impact of the vaccine in transmission and also highlighted potential fairness issues because people under 16 cannot get the vaccine.
Rennie said he doesn't expect plans on passports to progress before the election next month.
"I don't think the government would go ahead [with it] before the election," he said. "I don't think they're ready, they've not made up their mind, so I'd be surprised if they get it done within the next four weeks."
He also accused the government of being a "wee bit half-hearted" about testing so far during the pandemic.
"They've always been dragged along to the concept of testing," Rennie said. "They've never really believed in the value of it from the beginning, whether it was care home residents being tested before admission or whether it was the use of asymptomatic testing."
Sturgeon has plans to further expand the availability of testing, which she confirmed yesterday.
She said: "We do intend to move to a situation where lateral flow tests are available twice a week on a universally accessible basis."