Nicola Sturgeon is being accused of undermining the UK in its escalating battle with the EU over vaccine doses.
The Scottish first minister is “threatening to publish details of confidential supplies” that the “UK government wants to keep secret”, the Times is reporting today (Thursday).
The other pro-Conservative broadsheet, the Telegraph has also piled in, stating Sturgeon is acting “despite warnings that the information could jeopardise the UK’s supply” of vaccine doses.
Both reports follow the prime minister’s controversial trip to Scotland today, which Sturgeon yesterday said was “not essential” during the pandemic and lockdown.
Vaccine row is ‘yet another episode of the Brexit saga’
The row between Downing Street and Holyrood brings a new dimension to the escalating tensions between the UK and EU over delivery of the Oxford/AstraZeneca, with the European Commission believing the UK has received preferential treatment.
The UK has vaccinated around five-times as many per capita compared to EU countries who were expecting 80 million AstaZeneca doses by the end of March, but may now receive only 31 million.
Writing in the Independent, Sean O’Grady questions if the AstraZeneca vaccine had been developed in Asia or America would “the stories about production problems, breaches of contract and export bans…have acquired the heated, chauvinistic Brexity quality that they have in recent days”?
O’Grady opines the story “would be much more of a business story than yet another episode of the Brexit saga”, stating it “would matter, but the focus would be on the prosaic aspects of contractual obligations, complex supply chains and the impact on public health.”
Sturgeon hits back at Downing St hypocrisy
Meanwhile, Scotland’s vaccination roll-out has been criticised with Sturgeon and her health minister Jeane Freeman even facing calls for their resignations over the issue which has dominated debate in Holyrood.
Opposition parties claim Scotland is lagging behind England and is actually getting “slower” in administering the jabs – to which Sturgeon has countered by promising to publish the data revealing how many doses Scotland actually receives each week.
The first minister said the figures will be published “regardless of what they say” in Downing Street, and accused the UK government of hypocrisy by briefing “through spin to the media” about the numbers of Scottish doses while insisting she keeps the supply information secret.
Scottish indy-referendum is ‘completely irrelevant’ says PM
On his controversial trip across the border Boris Johnson declared “the endless talk” about another Scottish independence referendum “is completely irrelevant” to “most people”.
The prime minister took aim at the SNP and claimed they have failed to give “any clear description of what the constitutional situation will be” in the event of Scottish independence.
“We don’t know what the point of it would be, or what happens to the army, what happens to the crown, what happens to the pound, what happens to the Foreign Office, what happens to security,” Johnson said.
“The endless talk about a referendum – without any clear description of what the constitutional situation will be after that referendum – is completely irrelevant now to the concerns of most people, who I think want us to beat this pandemic.”
He also took the opportunity to claim Brexit will be a boon to the fishing industry despite the “inevitable teething problems” that saw Scottish seafood exporters descend on London to protest about the deal’s impact on their sector.
Johnson said: “Be in no doubt that, over the medium term, and much more over the long term, the changes are very beneficial for Scottish fishing.”