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Nicola Sturgeon is accused of taking the EU's side and risking vaccine rollout as she vows to publish details of UK's supplies despite Boris Johnson ordering her to keep them secret” – Daily Mail, January 29 2021


Scotland has a better record of vaccinating care home residents and health workers than in England. The only reason the Tories want to keep secret the state of vaccine supplies in the UK is because they fear public opinion will demand Britain co-operates with the rest of humanity to fight Covid-19, instead of concentrating on photo-ops for Boris.


For some weeks, Conservative politicians and the Unionist media have criticised the Scottish Government for being slower to vaccinate the local population as compared to the record in England, and that surplus vaccine supplies were therefore going unused north of the Border.

READ MORE: Are the SNP 'too slow' on Covid vaccine rollout compared to England?

The Scottish government has responded:

  • (1) It is focusing on vaccinating all care home residents and medical workers, rather than meeting a random percentage target for the whole population
  • (2) That Scotland’s small population versus large land area (a third of the UK) limits the use of the mass vaccination centres seen in England.

The SNP Government has also contested the alleged surplus of vaccine doses it is said to hold. The truth of the latter contention is masked by the fact that the UK Government refuses to reveal what stocks it has in hand or the rate at which it is receiving vaccines supplies from manufacturers. It has also banned the devolved administrations from publicising what allocations they are receiving.

The reason for this secrecy is given simply as “security”, according to Tory minister Lucy Frazer. Frazer told BBC Breakfast: “The Government isn’t hiding anything at all. My understanding is that is for security reasons.” There is speculation that the Government actually wishes to hide the degree to which it has bought up vaccine supplies ahead of other countries. The Conservatives are afraid that if this information leaks out it will lead to a backlash, with other countries (particularly in the EU) accusing the UK of selfishness and redirecting vaccine supplies.

On Thursday January 28, the FM threatened to publish the scale of vaccine supplies being made available to Scotland. She did so just as the EU was putting pressure on the Anglo-Swedish AstraZeneca (AZ) to maintain contracted deliveries of its vaccine, despite manufacturing problems at its Belgian plant. The subtext being that to meet its EU obligations, AZ might have to divert supplies from its two UK plants earmarked for the UK.

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However, it is clear in context that the FM was responding to the invalid Unionist claims that the Scottish Government was hoarding vaccine supplies. Her threat to reveal the existing supply arrangements was actually a warning to the Unionists that they cannot deliberately misconstrue the vaccine situation in Scotland when they know the truth. As Scottish Health Secretary Jean Freeman says, the public have "the right to clarity" over the figures about "known supplies" of the various vaccines.


Conservative MPs responded to the FM’s statement in a choreographed fashion, turning the story into an anti-EU rant. Extreme Brexiteer Peter Bone MP told the MailOnline: “The simple truth is she has a tendency to support the EU rather than the United Kingdom.” 

He went on: “I would have thought she would praise the success of the UK because Scotland shares in that. If she was in the EU and not part of the UK she would still be waiting for her vaccines. Get behind the UK government and stop playing petty politics!”  

Note: Bone’s urging of the FM to “get behind the UK Government” is in stark contrast to his own long career of rebel votes against his own Tory governments over Europe.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon's plan to defy UK Government over vaccine data sparks Tory anger

Former Tory Party leader Iain Duncan Smith (another Brexiteer) accused the FM of "showboating to try and curry favour" with the EU. He added that she "should for once in her life thank the UK Government, for having vaccines so people in Scotland have a better chance of surviving coronavirus than if it was stuck in the EU, which is her dream".

The Scottish Tory leader, Douglas Ross, called the FM’s statement "deeply irresponsible". Note: this is the same man who has missed vital debates in the Commons because of part time job as a football referee.


There is no doubt that the EU is taking a hard line over securing vaccine supplies.  Commission President Ursula von der Leyen says it is “crystal clear” that AZ is bound by its contract to deliver coronavirus vaccine doses, even if it means diverting stocks from those manufactured the UK.

However, the EU’s position should be seen less as “vaccine nationalism” and more the result of the pandemic crisis. Lack of vaccine doses in Europe has already forced the Spanish government to announce a temporary pause in its rollout of the vaccine in Madrid. Ditto the public health agency for greater Paris - with a population of 12m – which has informed hospitals it is suspending vaccinations from 2 February. There are similar shortages in Germany.

READ MORE: Scottish Government to defy UK Government in row over jag supply 'spin'

Covid-19 respects no human frontiers and “vaccine nationalism” – on any side - only limits the ability to create a coordinated response to curbing the disease. There is clearly some culpability on the part of the EU Commission in not ordering sufficient vaccine supplies or in failing to expand production facilities fast enough. Equally, a fight between the UK and EU over existing supplies is pointless as we need to vaccinate the whole of Europe (both UK and Continent) to ensure everyone is safe. 

In this context, pro-EU Scotland could be a valuable diplomatic go-between. However, judging by the instant, kneejerk reaction of English Nationalist Tory MPs, this is a dispute that is unlikely to be resolved in a sensible fashion. The hysterical Tory response to the FM’s statement suggests a very guilty conscience.


The National:

A big zero. Once again, Tory hatred of Europe blinds them to the true facts.