Rave New World

Vaccine passports now mandatory for nightclubs after Nicola Sturgeon forces through new regulations.

First Minister’s Questions was merely a prelude.

The real action at Holyrood yesterday was the vote on vaccine passports, which eventually passed after six o’clock thanks to the combined votes of the SNP and its subcommittee on sustainable lentils, the Greens. 

The opposition gave its all. Labour’s Anas Sarwar used FMQs to contrast what scientific advisors say about stopping Covid with what vaccine passports actually achieve. 

‘What evidence has led the First Minister and her ministers to change their minds, disagree with those scientists and now back vaccine passports?’ Sarwar enquired. 

Sturgeon protested that she had not changed her mind and called for ‘a bit more genuine grown-up politics’ from the opposition. Sarwar thought this was a bit much from a First Minister who was ramming through a major policy off the back of a six-page outline only released to MSPs that morning. 

‘There are businesses that will be impacted by vaccine certification that have longer cocktail menus than that document,’ Sarwar jabbed. 

Sturgeon, miffed by the snickering, snarled: ‘Most people who are watching this will probably breathe a sigh of relief that Anas Sarwar is not standing here.’ He was engaged in ‘clever quips’ that ‘might sound good in a student union’.

She was rattled. All it took was Sarwar to show some guts. He should show more. 

Speaking of guts, John Swinney looked sick to his later in the afternoon when he had to lay out the government’s case. Douglas Ross intervened to ask what definition of ‘nightclub’ the government was using. Swinney couldn’t provide one. Stephen Kerr read from the government paper, which said businesses would have to meet additional costs. Did ministers have an estimate of what those costs might run to? They did not. 

Ross was incredulous at the lack of detail in a policy hours away from parliamentary approval. He relayed an invitation from an industry body for Sturgeon or Swinney to spend a night serving pints in a club to see first-hand the impact of their policies.

Imagine it: another week of drudgery at work or uni, looking forward to your weekend clubbing session, then, when Friday night comes, rocking up to the bar only to be greeted by the sight of the First Minister, rigid in her starchiest business suit, never been in a club in her life that didn’t host weekly meetings on banning the bomb, counting every unit in every pint she pulls and asking whether you wouldn’t rather have a contemporary fiction recommendation than a Jack ‘n’ Coke. 

Lib Dem leader Alex Cole-Hamilton eviscerated the government’s plans for what he branded ‘medical ID cards in all but name’ in a punchy contribution powered by unapologetic liberalism. Tory Craig Hoy, and later Willie Rennie, mocked Patrick Harvie, who had been a principled opponent of vaccine passports until he acquired new principles along with a ministerial salary. He squirmed like an eel under the scrutiny of a flock of herons.

Jackie Baillie barged in, landing blows on whoever got in her way like it was Black Friday down the Dumbarton shopping precinct. ‘Why don’t the government do something novel,’ she swung. ‘Try to get it right.’ She revealed, too, that she had heard of Test and Protect contact tracers being laid off. 

This was decidedly unhelpful for the government but attempts by Nationalist MSPs to stop her in her stride were thumped down without mercy. ‘I will take as many interventions from SNP members as John Swinney took from Labour members. For those not paying attention, that was zero.’

She terrifies me. God knows what she does to ministers. 

John Swinney cut a lonely figure on the front bench as the opposition heaped its dissatisfaction on his head. He eventually had Humza Yousaf to keep him company, the Health Secretary sporting crutches after rupturing his tendon playing badminton. For most of the debate, the government’s own Achilles’ heel was nowhere to be seen. Getting ready for her first shift in the Corinthian, perhaps. 

Originally published in the Scottish Daily Mail on September 10, 2021.

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