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Alex Cole-Hamilton demands human rights probe into vaccine passport plan

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ALEX Cole-Hamilton is demanding a human rights investigation into the Scottish Government’s plans for vaccine certificates.

The LibDem chief has raised concerns that the scheme could lead to some Scots being “systematically excluded” from places and events.

He was written to the Scottish Human Rights Commission (SHRC), calling on it to carry out a statutory inquiry to examine if the proposals breach equality laws.

It comes days before the Scottish Government’s vaccine certification scheme is due to come into effect.

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From Friday October 1 people will have to prove they have been double vaccinated before they can enter nightclubs or attend some other large events.

The Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) confirmed last week it planned to mount a legal challenge to the controversial scheme, which Labour, the Tories and the LibDems all voted against in Holyrood.

Judith Robertson, chairwoman of the SHRC, told MSPs the case for the passports had not been publicly made.

Cole-Hamilton said: “I have a real concern that these illiberal Covid ID cards will lead to ethnic minority Scots, young people and those from the most deprived areas being systematically excluded from public events and spaces.

“The SNP/Green Government are rushing this through and appear to have no intention to share evidence to back their plans up.

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“I believe this is precisely the kind of situation where the commission, set up by Labour and the LibDems, should kick in.

“Their power to instruct an inquiry may be the only way to get behind the curtain on this.”

The Scottish LibDem leader branded the scheme a “hugely significant policy decision” from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, which he insisted “goes against the very basic freedoms at the heart of our society”.

READ MORE: When can I download the Scottish vaccine passport app and how will it work?

Cole-Hamilton said: “The SHRC previously warned that the Scottish Government would need to demonstrate Covid ID cards were necessary, proportionate and effective.

“In my view, none of these tests have been met.

“Ministers should be taking all the resources devoted to this cruel policy and using them in the ways we know tackle Covid-19 – testing, tracing and vaccinating.”

He spoke out after Robertson told MSPs on Holyrood’s Covid-19 Recovery Committee “that case has not been made at the moment” for the scheme “or if it has it’s not in the public domain”.

She said: “That is one of the key aspects in relation to those human rights considerations: that the evidence upon which decisions are being made be placed into the public domain so that not only the basis on which decisions are being made is clear but that can be interrogated by a wider element of the population.

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“There isn’t a clarity around what evidence has been used to base the decisions on.”

A Scottish Government spokesman commented: “A vaccine certification scheme is a proportionate measure which can help us to reduce transmission risks, reduce the risk of serious illness and death and in doing so alleviate pressure on the healthcare system and to encourage uptake of the vaccine, while keeping late-night venues and large events open for business.

“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.

“We are taking an equality and human rights approach to ensure the policy does not inadvertently disadvantage any community.

“Ministers have had considerable engagement with equality, human rights and children’s stakeholders, representing each of the protected characteristics in the Equality Act. This includes the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Scottish Human Rights Commission, the Children and Young People’s Commissioner, Amnesty International, the Scottish Refugee Council, Age Scotland and more.

“Their views and evidence have been taken into account and reflected in our impact assessments … which we will publish alongside regulations in the coming days.”

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