Scottish Government update and discussion
The Minister proceeded to provide updates on three key areas:
COVID-19 certification scheme
Mitigation measures are reviewed every three weeks. While highlighting that the certification scheme is a worthy technique to help businesses run and stay open, the Minister acknowledged its challenges and thanked everyone for their ongoing perseverance. Positively, public awareness of the scheme is good and venues, in many cases, are achieving more than the stipulated minimum 20% attendance certification checks. With transmission levels currently increasing, of immediate consideration is whether the scheme should be extended to more settings, primarily hospitality and leisure; and if Lateral Flow Testing (LFT) should be included as an acceptable form of evidence if proof of double vaccination cannot be provided.
Members provided their thoughts:
- There needs to be increased efforts to provide clarity to the public of what is in scope
- The issue of securing enough stewards to staff any increase in scope, and then how to pay for them, is becoming an increasingly unsurmountable problem
- Consideration needs to be given to how booster jabs would be taken into account for events taking place next year
- Certification is causing a drop off in attendance at concerts (the percentage drop off is dependent on demographic)
Mitigation measures - winter months
Referring to the recent increase in transmission, the Minister highlighted the need to continue to step up compliance practices to seek to drive down numbers. With the aim of enabling the sector to continue to run during the winter months, members were asked what more they thought events could do to mitigate risk:
- It was felt that there was scope to increase the level of face mask wearing. A clear but balanced mandatory requirement could be imposed to make this mitigation more robust, which in turn should improve public understanding. The Minister agreed that communications around this area of mitigation could be enhanced further, citing sporting events as a particular challenge.
- It was suggested that it shouldn’t just be about what more the sector could do to mitigate risk but instead highlight and promote what the sector has already achieved e.g. proven low level of transmission at events; adoption of excellent COVID-19 mitigation protocols; and events providing clear health benefits.
The Minister agreed that attending events has clear benefit to an individual’s physical and mental health and felt that the Scottish Government could do more to highlight this; and further asked members for their views on the current levels of audience confidence – notably if hesitancy to attend events is causing a challenge:
- It was suggested that this varied across demographic but that there was, generally, a clear desire to be able to attend live events. A confidence piece to further boost hesitant markets would however be welcomed.
The Minister concluded the discussion on certification and mitigation by confirming a willingness to continue to consult with EIAG members, and the wider industry, prior to any further changes being implemented.
EU exit issues
The Minister highlighted that challenges exist around the end of the transition period, particularly because of the UK Government’s position on visas and work permits. Members were invited to share any issues they were aware of:
- The current situation limits the sector’s ability to seek to fill stewarding shortages from the EU
- Touring artists are currently experiencing difficulties entering Spain and France
- Small businesses are struggling to take work in the EU, or stopping all together, due to the effort involved in obtaining carnets
- Challenges exist in getting technical goods into Northern Ireland
- Visa offices in the EU are struggling to process paperwork – there is a differential in how rules are applied across Europe
- The lead time to get kit out of Europe has increased due to the paperwork involved – this is leading to an inability to deliver short lead jobs
- The global supply shortage of microchips is having significant wider impact currently
It was noted that a Parliamentary debate on EU exit will take place before Christmas. Members were encouraged to provide any further issues ahead of this debate. Prior to leaving the meeting, the Minister, concerned by the points already raised, concluded that the Scottish Government will continue to lobby their UK counterparts to bring about improvement.