Nicola Sturgeon grilled over COVID-19 vaccinations in Scotland
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Tom Harris said Ms Sturgeon had found herself on the back foot after vowing to return an independent Scotland to the EU while at the same time admitting she would have chosen to go it alone on a vaccine roll-out. Mr Harris said that position differs from a statement issued by Philippa Whitford, the SNP’s Westminster health spokeswoman, when Britain announced it was pursuing its own approval system for the vaccine. Ms Whitford told the Commons: “The UK is losing the European Medicines Agency – one of the great advantages was working together to have a single licensing system that licensed new drugs right across Europe.”
It is clear we have only been able to achieve this because we are part of the United Kingdom
Writing in the Telegraph, Mr Harris said: “Why is it that the first minister now refutes what her health spokesperson said?
“Was Whitford’s assertion that a single system to licence drugs across Europe was one of the EMA’s ‘great advantages’ wrong?
“Sturgeon’s party opposed Britain’s leaving the EMA because it fitted nicely into the ‘evil Tories abandoning nice, progressive Europe and taking Scotland with them’ narrative.
“And when that narrative turned out to be wholly false, when it was proved that ministers’ decision to pursue an independent vaccine approval process was the right one, Sturgeon found herself either having to defend the indefensible (the position taken by Whitford in the Commons) or deny that such had ever been her party’s policy in the first place.”
Mr Harris’s comments came after Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross and Ms Sturgeon clashed over the vaccine programme in a heated debate.
Mr Ross accused the First Minister of being “churlish” for not accepting the coronavirus vaccination programme is one of the “unquestionable benefits of the union”.
The pair clashed on the issue in a virtual debate staged by the National Union of Students in Scotland, with the First Minister claiming it is “simply not true” to suggest Scotland could not have procured vaccine doses in the same number if it was no longer part of the UK.
Mr Ross contrasted the success of the vaccination scheme in Scotland – where he said 60.5 percent of the adult population has now had their first jab – with Europe, where the average is just 20.5 percent.
He said: “The best country in Europe is actually Hungary at 38.2 percent. By any measure we are miles ahead here in Scotland.
“And the fact that Nicola Sturgeon refuses to accept that is because of the procurement and the development of the vaccines that the United Kingdom has taken forward is churlish, is irresponsible, and the fact that she got so angry at even being questioned about that shows she doesn’t want to accept the unquestionable benefits of the union of the United Kingdom in delivering our way out of this pandemic through the vaccination programme.
“You cannot ignore the fact that in Scotland over 60 percent of people have received the first does of the vaccine. I was just looking at the European figures where the average is 20.5 percent.
“Independent countries such as Ireland are on 22.6 percent, why have Ireland got it wrong but Nicola Sturgeon would get it right?
“Why are Bulgaria down at 8.8 percent but Nicola Sturgeon would have got it right, why are France on 22.1 percent but Nicola Sturgeon would know better than the French, or the Germans, at 19.1 percent.
“It is beyond belief that Nicola Sturgeon would somehow be able to do it better than all these other independent countries within the European Union.
“It is clear we have only been able to achieve this because we are part of the United Kingdom, which was procuring and developing these vaccines at the early stage of the pandemic.”
Ms Sturgeon accused the Tory of using “disgraceful” tactics, saying he has been “talking down our vaccination programme for political purposes”.
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She told Mr Ross: “At the start of this year, when you were wrongly saying that the vaccination programme was running behind the rest of the UK, you were claiming then it was the Scottish Government’s vaccination programme.
“Now that it is doing really well, you’re saying it is the UK Government’s vaccination programme – make your mind up.
“The UK chose to procure in the way it did and you are saying Scotland couldn’t have chosen to do that with the other UK nations had we been a member of the EU. That is quite simply not true.
“We procured the vaccine in the same way we procure the flu vaccine.
“And you don’t need to tell me how many people have been vaccinated with the first dose, I spend every day overseeing the programme.
“So stop talking down our vaccination programme for political purposes. It is disgraceful to seek to do that.”
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