Nicola Sturgeon criticises 'stupid spat' around vaccine supply data amid slow roll-out criticism

Nicola Sturgeon has criticised the UK Government for releasing vaccine supply figures to the media while simultaneously asking the Scottish Government to keep the information private.

The First Minister, who was facing criticism around Scotland’s slow Covid-19 roll-out, said it was not “fair” to be in the position where the Scottish Government could not publish vaccine supplies data.

The row escalated after Scotland Secretary Alister Jack appeared on the BBC on Sunday and set out the number of vaccines allocated to Scotland, numbers Ms Sturgeon refused to confirm on Monday.

Sign up to our public interest bulletins - get the latest news on the Coronavirus

Sign up to our public interest bulletins - get the latest news on the Coronavirus

She also claimed Mr Jack had promised on a four-nations call on Saturday not to release vaccine supply figures while awaiting an agreement around publishable data.

Nicola Sturgeon said it was not "fair" for her government to be unable to publish the statistics while the UK Government brief them to the press.

It is understood discussions are ongoing between officials in both governments around what data will be made public and what will continue to be kept secret – the latter most likely to be future vaccine supplies.

Ms Sturgeon, speaking at her daily coronavirus briefing, said: “We have been asked by the UK Government not to give figures for the doses that have been allocated to us because they say that is commercially confidential. Notwithstanding that we have agreed for the moment not to publish those figures, UK Government ministers continue to brief them to the press and you know that is a source of some contention.

"I had a four-nations call on Saturday chaired by Michael Gove where I expressed my frustration and I want to get to the position where we get to an understanding that either we all agree for good reasons we don’t publish these or we publish them properly.

"I hope people will realise it’s not political in any way to say it is not really fair. It’s not so much fairness to government, it’s about fairness to people, to have the Scottish Government asked not to release figures when another government is briefing them out to the press.”

Asked whether she was backtracking on publishing the data, something the First Minister said she would do in Holyrood last week, she criticised the UK Government for “these stupid spats”.

Ms Sturgeon said: "I’m not backtracking on anything.

"I just want us to get on with vaccination, but I’m not having my government briefed against with figures that we are being asked not to share by UK Government ministers who are doing it for political reasons.

"They still are asking us not to do that, so I’m prepared because I’m a reasonable person … to see if we can come to an agreement because I don’t want these stupid spats, I really don’t. We’ve all got far more to be getting on with right now, but equally I don’t think it is a fair position for the Scottish Government to be put into.”

In response, a UK Government source said: "It is disappointing that the First Minister seems to be wanting to start a political row when the focus needs to be 100 per cent on the roll-out of the vaccination programme.

"We want to work together with the Scottish Government and we have always said the best way to beat the pandemic is by us all working together as one United Kingdom.”

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by coronavirus impacts our advertisers.

If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription.


Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.