Jeane Freeman says publication of Scottish vaccine details was 'a mistake'

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman has said "a mistake was made" over the publication of a national vaccination roll-out programme for Scotland that contained commercially sensitive information.

The Cabinet Secretary revealed the document, which was temporarily taken down from the Scottish Government website, has now been republished without the sensitive material.

The confirmation came as the Tories claimed she had breached the ministerial code over publication of the sensitive material.

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Health secretary accused of breaching ministerial code over vaccine blunder
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman during First Minister's Questions at the Scottish Parliament in Holyrood, EdinburghHealth Secretary Jeane Freeman during First Minister's Questions at the Scottish Parliament in Holyrood, Edinburgh
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman during First Minister's Questions at the Scottish Parliament in Holyrood, Edinburgh
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"A mistake was made in publishing information that was considered to be sensitive," Ms Freeman told Friday’s coronavirus briefing.

"That mistake was very quickly rectified – the document was taken down very quickly. The information has been removed and the full plan with all the other very important information in it has now been published on the Scottish Government website.

"There was no malicious intent in this. It was an error, a mistake and, of course, I'm accountable for that. But it was done with the intention of being as transparent and open with the public about the information we hold in order to explain to them how we are going to roll out what is an absolutely critical vaccination programme."

The document had initially included details about supplies of the vaccine and timescales for when people might be given it.

Its publication prompted concerns from the UK Government that other countries could easily work out the UK's vaccine supply and pressurise manufacturers, perhaps jeopardising future supplies.

The Health Secretary said the Scottish Government's aim was to be as "open and transparent" as possible with the information about vaccines.

"That is because from day one, the First Minister said she wanted to have an adult relationship with the people of Scotland," she said.

"Whilst I regret that we published information that the UK Government consider to be sensitive and I've had those conversations with them and respect their view, we've withdrawn that information.

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"And the plan revised, with that part removed, everything else there is back up on our website. And what's important is that it is back up on our website.

"Anyone, any member of the Scottish public, can see for themselves how we plan to deliver this vaccine."

The Tories are now suggesting the ministerial code has been breached by the Health Secretary over publication of the sensitive material and by Ms Freeman appearing to inadvertently reveal a vaccine storage location in Parliament this week.

Tory health spokesman Donald Cameron has written to the First Minister calling for the alleged breaches to be looked into.

“I would urge you to investigate this and ensure that every minister and official in the Scottish Government fully understands their obligations when publishing sensitive materials,” he said in a letter to Ms Sturgeon.

He points to paragraph 2.26 of the ministerial code, which states, under the heading “Confidentiality and Security of Cabinet Documents and Other Government Papers”, that “ministers have a personal responsibility to safeguard the integrity and confidentiality of government business. Failure to maintain good security can cause damage to the interests and reputation of the government and may prejudice the effective conduct of official business.”

Ms Freeman said the First Minister took the code "very seriously”.

"I'm sure she will give due consideration to what's been raised with her," the Health Secretary said.

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