Covid Scotland: Linguistic gymnastics serve no-one well, including Nicola Sturgeon

The Covid-19 briefings, mercifully no longer the daily slogs of the earlier days of the pandemic, are an opportunity for the press to question the First Minister on her government’s response to the pandemic.

They are usually polite occasions, but Nicola Sturgeon was evidently feeling unjustly targeted on Tuesday around accusations the Scottish Government had not hit the milestone of all 40 to 49-year-olds having been “given” a second dose.

The use of the word “given” is not a creation of the press, it was said in Holyrood by the First Minister.

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Covid Scotland: Nicola Sturgeon attacks critics of vaccine rollout and questions...
Frist Minister Nicola Sturgeon

Yet she spent a significant chunk of a public health briefing attacking opposition politicians and journalists for taking a literal reading of the word.

Ms Sturgeon insisted, repeatedly, that was what meant was “offered”, not “given”.

If that is the case she should, however, have made that clear to Parliament.

Her argument – that beyond compulsion it is impossible for 100 per cent uptake in a voluntary vaccination rollout – is, to borrow one of the First Minister’s favourite phrases, also a perfectly legitimate one.

Asked whether her government was set to miss further milestones, Ms Sturgeon said she assumed opponents, and presumably some journalists, had a “certain level of intelligence”.

She continued, adding she assumed a “certain ability to attach context and common sense to what I am saying”.

The First Minister regularly suggests she welcomes scrutiny, but what was clear in a tetchy, hostile briefing was that she is only content with scrutiny she views as legitimate.

Asked to release figures showing the number of scheduled appointments versus uptake, she essentially refused, saying it would be kept under consideration if it did not add to workloads.

This data is key to understanding whether the target of having offered all Scots a jab has been met and would allow the verification of the statement that all Scots have been offered an appointment on time.

It is not currently made public, and without it the only statistic to judge the First Minister by is actual uptake.

On that basis, the vaccine rollout has been successful, but in the young it is faltering.

Attempting to ignore that fact and claim ill-defined milestones have been met through linguistic gymnastics fails those who are yet to be jabbed and blocks legitimate scrutiny of the rollout.

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