Nicola Sturgeon said she expects vaccine passports or certification in some form in Scotland and called for a “mature, grown-up debate” about their use.
The First Minister said she was “open-minded” on the issue of vaccine passports but insisted that there needed to be public support and confidence in the idea.
Speaking at a Scottish Government coronavirus briefing, Ms Sturgeon warned that a scheme to enable people to prove their vaccine or infection status must not “gloss over the practical and ethical issues”.
But she said that the Scottish Government should look “very carefully” at the concept of vaccine passports or certification if it could help society return to normal following the coronavirus pandemic.
We need to be open-minded to anything that helps us get back to normalityFirst Minister Nicola Sturgeon
“I think we will see some kind of vaccine certification starting to be used,” Ms Sturgeon said.
She added: “We just don’t know for sure yet, exactly what role they will play.
“I’m not one of these people that says never, ever, ever, because I think we need to be open-minded to anything that helps us get back to normality.
“But nor am I one of these people that just says we’ll just forget some of the really complex issues that we’ve got to think through.
“Let’s have a grown-up debate about this and trial where that is appropriate, learn lessons as we go, but get to the right position through a mature, grown-up debate.”
Highlighting “ethical and equity issues”, Ms Sturgeon also explained the Government would have to ensure the system was fair for those who were unable to get the vaccine, due to their age or for medical reasons.
Scotland’s national clinical director, Professor Jason Leitch, said forms of certification were already in force for overseas travel and certain industries – based on a person having already caught coronavirus or being vaccinated.
“I think Covid certification in the round will become a thing,” Professor Leitch said, although he added: “I’m sceptical about the vaccine bit being linked into pubs, bars and restaurants.”
Scotland’s Health Secretary, Jeane Freeman, said on Monday the Government was working to develop the tools needed for digital vaccine certificates.
Ms Freeman said she favours digital certificates over paper versions as she believes the latter would place an unnecessary burden on the health service.
A UK Government review into “Covid status certification” found they could “potentially play a role” in settings such as theatres, nightclubs and mass events, and might also be used in pubs and restaurants to reduce social distancing restrictions.
But Prime Minister Boris Johnson is facing widespread opposition to the proposal, with Labour expressing scepticism and at least 40 Conservative MPs opposing the idea of vaccine passports.