‘Delusional’ Nicola Sturgeon accused of refusing to credit the Union for vaccine success

Simon Johnson
·3-min read
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon - Reuters
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon - Reuters

Nicola Sturgeon's "bitter and blind hostility" to the UK means she cannot accept the vaccination programme bolsters the case for the Union, the Tories have said after she insisted a separate Scotland would have performed just as well.

Donald Cameron, the Tories' health spokesman, accused the First Minister of "delusional nonsense" after she insisted there was "absolutely no evidential basis" to suggest fewer Scots would have been vaccinated outside the UK.

Ms Sturgeon was challenged during an STV election interview that no other European country has vaccinated anything like the UK's total, with the Republic of Ireland hoping to complete its over-70s by the end of next month.

She said a separate Scotland "could have chosen to procure the way it thought was best" and anybody claiming the situation would have been worse was "basically plucking this out of thin air."

Ms Sturgeon insisted a separate Scotland would have fared just as well came after she received her first dose of the Oxford vaccine last week.

But a series of her ministers demanded the UK sign up to the EU's vaccine procurement plan last year and expressed outrage when the Prime Minister refused.

Watch: Scotland’s lockdown restrictions to ease on Monday, Sturgeon confirms

Mike Russell, the Constitution Secretary, warned at the time: "This idiotic refusal is all about Brexit and nothing to do with the pandemic. It will cost lives." The decision was also publicly opposed by a series of SNP MPs.

Instead, the UK Government arranged for British-based AstraZeneca to partner Oxford University to develop the vaccine last year and took the gamble of pouring tens of millions of pounds of taxpayers' money into setting up a production line before there was any proof that the vaccine would work.

Mr Johnson also put Kate Bingham, a life sciences venture capitalist, in charge of the UK's Vaccine Taskforce (VTF) and gave her wide discretion to speed up the process and lay steep bets on vaccine candidates.

The VTF bought doses early from seven different candidates and has now secured deals for 407 million doses, enough to vaccinate the population many times over.

The EU was months behind in signing its own deals with AstraZeneca and German company Pfizer and only around a fifth of the bloc's population has been vaccinated compared to well over half of Britons.

The Scottish Tories disclosed earlier this month that more than 1.5 million fewer Scots would have been vaccinated under the EU scheme, based on the average rate across the bloc.

Mr Cameron said: "Nicola Sturgeon cannot accept the obvious truth about our world-leading vaccination programme, which is saving countless lives, because of her bitter and blind hostility to the United Kingdom.

"More than 2.7million Scots have had their first jag which should be a cause for celebration but instead Sturgeon gives a churlish response with zero evidence to support her wild claim that an independent Scotland would have done just as well."

Watch: What UK government COVID-19 support is available?