Nicola Sturgeon should thank Boris Johnson for ignoring SNP demands to sign up to the EU’s disastrous vaccine programme when she gets her first Covid jab on Thursday, the Scottish Tory leader has said.
Douglas Ross said the First Minister would have faced a much longer wait to be vaccinated if Mr Johnson had heeded her party’s demands for the UK to join the European scheme last year.
The SNP confirmed that Ms Sturgeon, 50, is scheduled to receive her first jab after she launches her party’s election manifesto on Thursday morning.
A spokesman said: “These remarks from Douglas Ross are utterly pathetic but entirely in keeping with his petulant, puerile tone.”
A series of Ms Sturgeon’s ministers demanded that the UK sign up to the EU’s vaccine procurement plan last year and expressed outrage when Mr Johnson refused. 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 publicly opposed by a series of SNP MPs.
The UK Government instead arranged for British-based AstraZeneca to partner Oxford University to develop a vaccine 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 jab would work.
Mr Johnson put Kate Bingham, a life sciences venture capitalist, in charge of the UK’s Vaccine Taskforce and gave her discretion to speed up the process and lay bets on vaccine candidates. The taskforce bought doses early from seven candidates and has secured deals for 407 million doses.
The EU was months behind in signing its own deals with AstraZeneca and Pfizer and only around a fifth of its 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.
Asked whether Ms Sturgeon should thank the Prime Minister for ignoring the SNP when she gets her jab, Mr Ross said: “Yes, absolutely. I think the SNP comments from a number of ministers at Holyrood and senior SNP politicians at Westminster at the time, on the approach that the UK Government took, have been shown to be false, hollow, and completely wrong.
“If Nicola Sturgeon had her way, she would take an independent Scotland back into the European Union, and there would be well over a million and a half fewer doses of the vaccine available here in Scotland, and it would be some time yet before Nicola Sturgeon was due to get her vaccine, rather than just a matter of hours.”
Nearly 2.7 million Scots have now received their first dose and 634,422 their second. Letters are being issued to invite Scots aged between 45 and 49 to be vaccinated.
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