Boris Johnson has taken a swipe at the Scottish National party by claiming there would not have been a single Covid-19 vaccine in Scotland if it was up to Nicola Sturgeon’s party, the Guardian understands.
Addressing a virtual meeting of the 1922 committee of backbench Conservative MPs on Tuesday evening before Wednesday’s Commons vote on the third national lockdown in England, the prime minister highlighted the threat of the new Covid variant but was also said to have criticised Scotland’s ruling party.
Johnson tackled a series of questions from backbenchers on the 1922 committee Zoom call, including one from a Scottish Tory MP about the SNP – with Johnson using his answer to take aim at the pro-independence party.
The prime minister is understood to have said that the strength of the union lay in what could be done for people across the UK, claiming that if it was up to the SNP there would not have been a single coronavirus vaccine delivered in Scotland.
One MP in the virtual meeting said: “Essentially, the point the prime minister was making is that the UK is a major country, we’ve got sufficient clout to get the vaccines rolled out. He did actually mention that we were ahead of the rest of Europe.
“He said if it were up to the SNP then there wouldn’t have been a single vaccine delivered in Scotland. It was a UK effort, in other words and needed the clout of a big government.”
No 10 has been contacted for comment.
The first doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid vaccine began to be administered in the UK on Monday, after the jab received approval from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Authority (MHRA) last month. It is the second vaccine to be approved by the regulator in the UK, following the Pfizer/BioNTech jab.
According to the government, through the vaccines taskforce the UK “secured early access” to 357m doses of the seven “most promising” vaccine candidates. That includes the Oxford/AstraZeneca and BioNTech/Pfizer jabs.
Johnson’s comments follow Sturgeon saying Scotland had acted “much earlier” to get the latest Covid wave under control compared with Johnson’s government in London. Speaking during a coronavirus press briefing earlier on Tuesday, Scotland’s first minister made the claim as she sought to defend her decision to close places of worship, which remain open in England.
“It is one of the points of difference between Scotland and the UK but so is the fact we decided to act much earlier in the curve of this wave of the pandemic to get it under control,” Sturgeon said. “We are trying to act as cautiously as we can at the moment to stop this situation deteriorating any further.”
On Sunday, Johnson reiterated his position that a Scottish independence referendum should be a “once-in-a-generation” vote.
The prime minister told the BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show: “Referendums in my experience, direct experience, in this country are not particularly jolly events. They don’t have a notably unifying force in the national mood, they should be only once-in-a-generation.”
In November, Johnson prompted an angry reaction from politicians across the spectrum after he dismissed devolution as “a disaster north of the border”. During a Zoom call with about 60 northern Conservative MPs evening, the prime minister described devolution as “Tony Blair’s biggest mistake”.
The post Johnson: no Covid vaccine in Scotland if it was up to SNP appeared first on The Guardian.