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Scots vaccine passport ‘costing biz £250k a week’

The botched rollout of Scotland’s vaccine passport app is costing venues £250,000 a week, according to the Music Venue Trust (MVT).

The Scottish Music Venues Alliance (SMVA) has reported a 39% dip in business per week, amounting to £249,471.23, since vaccine certification became mandatory for large events and nightclubs on 1 October.

A vast majority of people experienced repeated problems in registering and uploading their personal vaccine status to the app, says the events sector.

With the weekly turnover for SMVA members totalling just under £640,000, the drop represents a loss of more than £712,770 over the first two weeks of the month. Venues stand to lose almost £2 million from an eight-week downturn. MVT CEO Mark Davyd describes the figures as “terrible”.

“We told [the government] very clearly that if they went down a vaccine-only passport route, there would need to be financial compensation for the people who have to deliver it, and they didn’t do that,” Davyd tells IQ. “They waited to see what would happen. And what’s happened is £700,000 has already been lost, £250,000 a week is being lost and is going to carry on being lost while they still pursue this policy.”

Scottish venues reported high levels of customer frustration over the lack of information from government and the chaotic rollout of the app. First minister Nicola Sturgeon said NHS Scotland systems were to blame for the troubled launch rather than the app itself.

Davyd says a BRIA [Business and Regulatory Impact Assessment] put out by the authorities after implementation contained no financial assumptions.

“It merely noted that only 62% of 18 to 29-year-olds were actually double vaccinated,” he says. “Well, it doesn’t take a genius to work out that 18 to 29-year-olds are a very large percentage of the audience that goes to grassroots music venues. And therefore 38% of them can no longer get into a grassroots music venue.”

This is having no impact whatsoever on transmission rates

A third of ticket holders over the first two weeks did not attend, while 27% of customers were refused entry due to lack of evidence of full certification. Furthermore, 61% of punters would have been refused entry had venues strictly implemented the full terms of the restrictions, which became enforceable by law on Monday (15 October).

“To be very clear, this is having no impact whatsoever on transmission rates,” says Davyd. “All it’s doing is driving customers out of a very specific part of the economy and putting them somewhere else where they [don’t require] a vaccine passport.

“Transmission isn’t taking place in grassroots music venues, they’re actually doing really, really good risk management. They’re doing great studies, they’re really working hard on safety. This was a thing that, if they wanted to do it, they needed to do it a much, much wider basis so they didn’t get market distortion. It’s the Scottish government’s job to sort that out now.”

On what happens next, Davyd says that the £6m earmarked by the Scottish government to help the domestic events sector recover from the pandemic remains untouched, with a meeting on how to distribute it planned for late this month.

“They now need to spend it to make sure the grassroots music venues are not closed by a policy that really needed a great deal more work before it was implemented,” he adds.

 


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Scottish gov apologises for vaccine passport ‘shambles’

The first minister of Scotland today apologised to the event industry for the botched rollout of the country’s vaccine passport app.

Vaccine certification became mandatory for large events and nightclubs last Friday (1 October) but ‘a vast majority’ of people experienced repeated problems in registering and uploading their personal vaccine status to the app, according to the events sector.

Scottish venues reported high levels of customer frustration over the lack of information from government and the chaotic rollout of the app.

 

In her weekly Covid-19 update this afternoon, first minister Nicola Sturgeon said NHS Scotland systems were to blame for the troubled launch rather than the app itself.

Sturgeon went on to say that the “initial backlog” of those waiting for the vaccine passport had been “cleared” by Saturday (2 October) lunchtime and that the Scottish government would continue to monitor the performance of the app.

“As anticipated, the rollout of this ill-conceived policy led to chaos and confusion in the street”

However, the event industry – which warned against the policy – is calling for the scheme to be scrapped immediately to avoid further damage to a ‘very fragile nighttime economy’.

Donald Macleod, MD Holdfast Entertainment/CPL, said: “Sadly and predictably [Friday’s] front door trialling of the Scottish Government’s new Covid Certification App proved to be problematic and highly confusing, with the vast majority of punters unable to access the app or show the required proof. This is an APP-ALLING shambles which if allowed to continue will have a devastating effect on the very fragile night-time economy. This ridiculous ‘Big Brother’ experiment and infringement of an individual’s civil rights should be dropped immediately.”

Mike Grieve, chairperson NTIA Scotland & Sub Club director, said: “As anticipated, the rollout of this ill-conceived policy led to chaos and confusion in the street [on Friday] with only a handful of our customers in possession of a functioning app passport. Around 50-60 others had a photocopy or screenshot of the wrong vaccination information or other spurious evidence of vaccination. Despite this we successfully checked all attendees for same-day LFTs to protect the health and safety of our customers and staff. What a shambles!”

Tony Cochrane, director of Club Tropicana, said: “The majority of customers at my clubs throughout Scotland told us they were annoyed and frustrated at multiple failed attempts to download the vaccine app and lost all faith in it. Others found no guidance on how to get it. You only get one chance to launch anything and this one must be one of the greatest failures ever. Public confidence in this has gone.”

Sturgeon said that Covid certification remains, in the Scottish government’s view, “a proportionate way of helping large events and night-time hospitality to keep operating during a potentially difficult winter”.

 


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Scotland to implement vaccine passports for large events

Vaccine passports may be legally required to enter certain events in Scotland from later this month, in a bid to ‘help stem the recent surge in the number of Covid cases’.

Pending approval from MPs, the new vaccine certification rules will mean people over the age of 18 will need to show they have had both doses of the vaccine before they are allowed entry to:

Medical exemptions will apply but proof of immunity or a negative test will not be accepted – something which DF Concerts boss Geoff Ellis disputes.

“It’s important that the [passport] includes lateral flow testing and immunity as well as double vaccination + 2 weeks for reasons of practicality and non-discrimination,” Ellis tells IQ.

“If [vaccine passports] are necessary then it should also be applied widely and not just for live music and nightclubs”

“If it’s necessary – which we are led to believe in Scotland that it is – then it should also be applied widely and not just for live music and nightclubs.

“That way it will be more effective in reaching [the government’s] goals by keeping the virus to manageable levels. If that’s the case then I think the live industry as a whole will support this as a temporary measure – DF Concerts certainly will,” Ellis concludes.

The government have not announced a specific date for the introduction of vaccine certification but they have stated this will only happen when all adults have been given the opportunity to receive both vaccines later this month.

Scottish MPs are due to debate and vote on the regulation in parliament next week. If the policy is passed, it will be reviewed every three weeks in line with other Covid regulations.

A similar debate is underway in England, where the government has said it will press ahead with plans to introduce vaccine passports for nightclubs and other crowded indoor venues from the end of next month.

Scottish MPs are due to debate and vote on the regulation in parliament next week

John Sharkey, executive VP, European operations, ASM Global, commented for IQ: “We believe that public health and the safety of our patrons should be at the forefront of everyone’s thinking as we begin to live with Covid in society. However, our industry, which has been largely closed for nearly 18 months, should also have equality and proportionality applied to it in line with other parts of the economy such as retail, transport and other areas of public life.

“If the government is looking to implement measures that are beyond this equity and proportionality test then they should be clearly stating why the measures are needed and also provide support to the industry in the implementation of such measures.”

A spokesperson from the O2 in London added: “The O2 has taken the decision to implement the NHS Covid Pass and we’ve found strong fan support and compliance with this measure since our events restarted and we will continue to apply it moving forward.

“There are however a number of unanswered questions about how those unable to obtain a vaccination are to be handled, so we urge the government to consult constructively with the industry to iron out these circumstances before any plans are finalised.”

 


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Scotland’s TRNSMT festival permitted to go ahead

Scotland’s biggest music festival, Glasgow’s Trnsmt, has been permitted to go ahead this September with up to 50,000 non-socially distanced fans per day.

The festival has been awarded the status of ‘gateway event’ by the Scottish government because of its place as ‘an internationally significant flagship event’.

This status exempts Trnsmt from the current 5,000-person capacity limit on outdoor events.

The three-day music festival will take place at Glasgow Green between 10–12 September with headliners Courteeners, Liam Gallagher and The Chemical Brothers.

The festival, which would usually take place with up to 150,000 people in July, has not been held since 2019. The 2020 event was cancelled in April last year, a month after the first Covid lockdown was announced.

“I’m delighted to confirm that Trnsmt has been given approval to take place this year due to its status as a gateway event”

This year, promoter DF concerts is working with the Scottish government and Glasgow City Council to deliver the event.

Geoff Ellis, chief executive at Trnsmt and CEO at DF Concerts, says: “I’m delighted to confirm that cinch presents Trnsmt has been given approval to take place this year due to its status as a gateway event, with permission to host up to 50,000 fans per day over the weekend of 10–12 September. We’re looking forward to working in partnership with the Scottish government and Glasgow City Council in delivering the festival.”

The news comes after the first minister announced on Tuesday (3 August) that most Covid restrictions would be lifted from Monday 9 August.

Capacity limits of 2,000 people indoors and 5,000 people outdoors will remain in place beyond Monday although some exceptions may be possible on a case by case basis.

“This will allow us and local authorities to be assured of the arrangements in place to reduce risk,” the Scottish government said in a statement.

 


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No date for return of live entertainment in Scotland

Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon declined to set a date for the return of non-socially distanced live entertainment in her rival ‘roadmap’ out of lockdown, presented today (16 March).

Unlike south of the border, where British prime minister Boris Johnson (the de facto leader of England, the UK’s biggest nation not having its own devolved administration) has set 21 June as the provisional date for a return to normality, Sturgeon said that while it is possible Scotland could be at ‘level zero’ (little or no restrictions) by the end of June, “it is not possible to provide specific dates or details” that far ahead.

Under the first minister’s timetable, stay-at-home (lockdown) orders will be lifted on 2 April, with other services, including hairdressers and garden centres, able to open from 5 April. Further easing expected on 26 April includes allowing people to socialise outside and hospitality businesses to reopen outdoors for alcohol service, and “potentially” indoors for non-alcoholic drinks and food.

From 17 May, it is hoped “small-scale”, capacity-limited events, both indoor and outdoor, will be able to resume, pending the successful continuation of the UK’s vaccine roll-out.

“I do believe that over the coming weeks as more and more adults are vaccinated it will be possible to set a firmer date”

“It is not possible to provide specific dates or details for coming out of lockdown beyond 17 May – that will depend on what impact there is from the changes already made,” said Sturgeon. “However, my hope and ambition is that from early June, all of Scotland will effectively be in level one of the levels system, allowing for a further easing of restrictions – and possibly moving to level zero in late June.”

Level zero, said Sturgeon (pictured), would include “many of the things that we took for granted before the pandemic: normal family gatherings where we can hug our loved ones, sporting events, gigs and nightclubs. I cannot set a date for that point yet, but I do believe that over the coming weeks as more and more adults are vaccinated it will be possible to set a firmer date by which many of these normal things will be possible, and I am very optimistic that this date will be over the summer.

“Thanks to the sacrifices we all made three months ago, and the success of the vaccination programme, we are now in a much better and brighter position, with well-earned optimism as we look ahead to the summer. We are getting the virus under control, but it is still dangerous, and to reach these dates it’s more important than ever now to stay within the rules.”

At press time, Scottish music festivals such as Eden Festival (10–13 June), Trnsmt (9–11 July), Belladrum (29–31 July) are still planning for a return this summer.

 


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