The First Minister meets the vaccine distribution party of Nicola Sturgeon
Boris Johnson has attacked the Scottish National Party by suggesting that if it had been up to Nicola Sturgeon’s party, the Guardian notes, there would have been no single Covid 19 vaccine in Scotland.
The prime minister highlighted the danger posed by the current Covid variant, but also allegedly criticised the Scottish ruling party, in a virtual meeting of the 1922 Committee of Conservative backbenchers on Tuesday night ahead of Wednesday’s vote in the House of Commons on the third national lockout in England.
On the 1922 “Zoom” committee, Johnson answered a number of questions from backbenchers, including one from a Scottish Tory MP about the SNP – with Johnson using his response to target the pro-independence party.
It is reported that the prime minister said that the strength of the union lies in what can be done for people around the UK, and said that not a single coronavirus vaccine would have been distributed in Scotland if it were up to the SNP.
In the virtual session, one MP said, “In essence, the prime minister pointed out that the UK is a big country and that we have enough influence to deliver the vaccines. He even mentioned that the rest of Europe is ahead of us.”
“He said that not a single vaccine would have been administered in Scotland if it were up to the SNP.
In other words, it was a UK initiative and needed the clout of a big government.
For comment, No 10 was contacted.
The first doses of the Covid vaccine from Oxford/AstraZeneca were given in the UK on Monday after the vaccine was approved last month by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Authority (MHRA).
This is the second vaccine in the United Kingdom approved by the agency, after the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.
“According to the government, the UK has gained “early access” through the Vaccine Task Force to 357 million doses of the seven “most promising” candidates for vaccines. These include Oxford/AstraZeneca and BioNTech/Pfizer vaccines.
Johnson’s remarks follow Sturgeon’s argument that Scotland acted “much sooner” relative to Johnson’s government in London to bring the recent covid wave under control.
Scotland’s first minister made that argument during a coronavirus press conference on Tuesday as she tried to defend her decision to close places of worship which remain open in England.
“It’s one of the points of difference between Scotland and the United Kingdom, but also the fact that we decided to act much earlier in the curve of this wave of the pandemic to get it under control,” Sturgeon said. “We’re trying to act as cautiously as possible right now to prevent the situation from getting any worse.”
On Sunday, Johnson reiterated his stance that a “once in a generation” vote should be a Scottish independence referendum.
On the BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show, the prime minister said, “In my experience, my direct experience, referendums in this nation are not particularly fun events.” In the national mood, they don’t have an especially unifying power, they should only be once in a lifetime.
In November, after dismissing devolution as “a disaster north of the border.” Johnson prompted an angry reply from politicians across the spectrum.
The Prime Minister called devolution “Tony Blair’s biggest mistake.” during a Zoom call with some 60 northern Conservative MPs that evening.
In response to questions from Westminster SNP leader Ian Blackford, Johnson on Wednesday told the House of Commons that “every part of the United Kingdom” had received the vaccine “thanks to our national NHS.”
He added: “It’s thanks to our British NHS, thanks to the strength of British companies, that we’re able to distribute a life-saving vaccine across our country, and I think that’s a point he could keep in mind.”