WATCH: John Swinney and Douglas Ross clash as Tories lose vaccine passport vote

THE Scottish Tories have lost a last-ditch attempt to stop the vaccine passport scheme from going ahead.

Douglas Ross led the debate against domestic Covid-19 vaccine certification in Holyrood on Wednesday but failed to get his motion to pass in its original form.

Meanwhile his claims that the Scottish Parliament were not consulted on the issue were easily rubbished by the SNP.

The Scottish Tory leader clashed with Deputy First Minister John Swinney during his opening remarks where he claimed that the Scottish Government were “ignoring” MSPs.

However, Swinney pointed out that there had been a debate on the issue two weeks ago.

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Undeterred, the Tories repeated the claim throughout the debate, with MSP Murdo Fraser claiming that there had been “no scrutiny”, despite Swinney pointing out the original government debate on the issue and numerous evidence sessions to the Covid-19 committee.

Ross also refused to answer when he was asked if he would support the scheme in Westminster if his “Tory masters” demanded it.

The debate began with a fiery exchange between Ross and Swinney during the Tory leader’s opening address, as he moved the one sentence motion in his name.

The motion read: “That the Parliament calls on the Scottish Government not to proceed with its plans to introduce a Covid-19 vaccine certification scheme.”

However, Swinney’s amendment, which passed, removed from “calls” onwards and instead backed the scheme. 

Swinney (pictured) intervened when Ross claimed that the Scottish Government had “votes sewn up” in the chamber and that they ignore parliament.

Swinney said: “He said that we were ignoring the wishes of the Scottish Parliament, the Scottish Parliament has voted for this, he said that himself a minute ago.”

Ross said: “They can ignore whatever this parliament says. This parliament is not just the SNP and the Greens, Scotland is not just the SNP and the Greens, there are 129 voices in this chamber and while the SNP …”

When Swinney tried to intervene again, an agitated Ross shouted across the chamber: “No, sit down please Mr Swinney, sit down and I will give way.

“But what the SNP don’t want to hear is the voices from the Conservatives or Labour or the Liberal Democrats they can also not ignore the voices of many people across Scotland who have said their plans are deeply flawed.”

After Ross gave way, Swinney replied: “Mr Ross obviously believes in the principle of parliamentary majorities being able to determine the outcome of parliamentary votes because he has used his vote in the House of Commons to vote to ensure there is a cut to universal credit for the most vulnerable families in our country, that is what Mr Ross uses his majority to deliver on the poor in our country.”

Ross said there had not been a vote on the issue, but also did not mention that the certification scheme is part of the UK Government’s winter contingency plan.

Health and Social Care Secretary Humza Yousaf moved the amendment for the Scottish Government, stating that the scheme is “proportionate and appropriate at this particular point in the pandemic”.

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Citing similar plans in Wales, the UK contingency plan and health expert evidence which states the scheme will reduce risk, Yousaf also criticised the Tories.

He said: “It sometimes suits the opposition to claim that the government doesn’t listen to parliament, and of course when we do listen to parliament they seem to be on the other side of the fence.”

Daniel Johnson, who moved an amendment for Labour, said that the First Minister’s announcement of a two-week “grace period” for enforcement of the scheme was admitting the policy is “flawed, rushed and potentially damaging to jobs and businesses”.

He said Labour believed the evidence base and impact on transmission of the scheme is uncertain, that detail is lacking and communication of the scheme is lacking.

The National:

Douglas Ross’s motion did not pass in Holyrood

LibDem leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said the scheme is “utterly illiberal” and was an “assault on medical privacy”.

Meanwhile, Green MSP Gillian McKay called out the Tories for their hypocrisy for “putting economic groth before lives” and for trying to remove one of the few safeguards the Scottish Government has the power to put in place.

She said: “I say to the Tories, instead of coming to this chamber with a one-line motion that seeks to put a halt to one of the few options open to us to drive up vaccination and lower transmission, why not come with some suggestions of how?”

Calling on the Tories to argue for a furlough extention to their Westminster colleagues she said that they should “attempt to offer some solutions”, but their motion proved they don’t have them.

John Swinney’s amendment was agreed with 67 votes for yes, 52 for no and one abstention.

The Scottish Labour amendment fell with 67 votes for no, 52 for yes and no abstentions. 

The Tory motion, as amended, was agreed with 67 votes for yes and 53 for no. 

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