Scotland would still be in the “vice-like grip” of coronavirus if it had followed SNP advice on vaccinations, a UK Government minister has claimed.
Scottish Secretary Alister Jack hailed the vaccination programme against the virus as being a success for the UK.
He insisted: “Had we followed the SNP’s advice on vaccines and waited for the flat-footed EU, we would still be in the vice-like grip of the pandemic instead of confidently looking forward to better days.
“There can be no more eloquent expression of the success of the Union than this brilliant UK-wide approach.”
The UK, Mr Jack said, has developed a “Covid-19 vaccination programme that is the envy of the world”.
He described this as being as a “truly astonishing achievement” and on a “scale that dwarfs anything since the war”.
Mr Jack said: “Across Britain, we have jabs going into arms at a tremendous rate, hammering back this dreadful virus.
“The foundations for this success were laid long ago when this Conservative Government took the visionary decision to back a host of experimental vaccine programmes.”
He spoke out about the vaccination programme in his speech to the Scottish Conservative Conference – in which he also attacked Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP Scottish Government.
Dubbing SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford a “champagne separatist”, he hit out at his comments that there could be a second Scottish independence referendum towards the end of this year.
Mr Jack said: “It is chilling that with the monumental task of recuperating from a pandemic still ahead, supposedly serious politicians can spend even a moment contemplating the reckless folly of another referendum.”
His comments came as he defended a controversial scheme which will see Westminster spend cash directly in devolved policy areas in Scotland.
But Mr Jack said this would ensure the funding is “not left to moulder in the coffers of Bute House”.
The Scottish Secretary hailed the £4.8 billion Levelling Up scheme as “true devolution”, saying it allowed politicians in London to put “the power and the money local communities crave directly into their hands”.
The SNP has, however, accused the Conservatives at Westminster of a “naked power grab”, saying the administration there is trying to “bypass the devolved governments and dictate spending over devolved areas”.
But Mr Jack said: “Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will see at least £800 million for high street regeneration, local transport, cultural and heritage projects – things that will make a genuine difference to the quality of life in communities across the land, and create good jobs too.”
The Scottish Tory MP continued: “The Levelling Up Fund will allow us to directly invest in capital projects, working with local authorities and others who know best what their communities really need.
“Together, we intend to ensure this money is spent for the betterment of people the length and breadth of Scotland, and not left to moulder in the coffers of Bute House.
“Here, then, is true devolution with central Government putting the power and the money local communities crave directly into their hands.”
He described the move as being a “welcome sea-change for this country” as he said the fund was “just one way the UK Government is investing in Scottish jobs and Scotland’s future prosperity”.
The Scottish Secretary highlighted the role of city and region growth deals – which see investment from both the UK and Scottish governments in areas across the country.
He also insisted local councils are “beating a path to the door of the Scotland Office” to find out more about freeports – a scheme the Scottish Government has rejected in favour of its alternative “green ports” proposal.
The Scottish Secretary said much of the work being done by the UK Government had only been made possible by Brexit – as he insisted that “contrary to the scaremongering our lights did not go out” when the transition period came to an end on December 31.
He told how the UK had achieved the “tariff-free, quota-free deal, which many said was Mission Impossible”.
And while Mr Jack accepted “not everything has been smooth” following the change, he stressed that “an undertaking on this scale was always going to have snags”.
Although the “seafood industry has suffered,” Mr Jack said this had been addressed with a “£23 million support fund and a dedicated taskforce to untangle the knots of EU red tape”.
And he stated: “A further £100 million has been earmarked for the seafood sector to help it maximise the opportunities now we are free of the dead hand of the Common Fisheries Policy.”
Following the UK’s departure from the European Union he said sectors such as food and drink and agriculture were “poised to take advantage of opportunities on new horizons”.
He stated: “We have a long tradition of being standard bearers for free trade and we are once again blazing a trail.”