Minister says Boris Johnson 'bailing out' Sturgeon's slow jab rollout

‘£8.6 billion of UK taxpayers’ money has gone to help Scotland in the pandemic’: Jacob Rees-Mogg slaps down SNP’s demand for MORE cash as Boris ‘bails out’ Scotland’s sluggish vaccination rollout by sending in the army

  • Jacob Rees-Mogg made the claim as army medics began helping administer jabs
  •  They will make up a ‘vaccine quick reaction force’ across Scotland
  • Sturgeon doubled down today to insist scheme working better than in England 

Boris Johnson is ‘bailing out’ Nicola Sturgeon’s stuttering vaccination programme in Scotland by deploying more military personnel to speed it up, a minister said today.

Jacob Rees-Mogg made the claim as he batted away SNP demands for more money for Scotland, to be used by politicians there.

British Army medics began helping administer jabs in the country today, with 57 making up a ‘vaccine quick reaction force’ able to deploy across Scotland at short notice. 

They included parts of 3 Medical Regiment, based in Preston in Lancashire, and 34 Field Hospital, based in Yorkshire

His comments in the Commons came after First Minister Ms Sturgeon last night claimed that the extra assistance was not Westminster ‘doing Scotland a favour’ but the nation receiving help it paid for via taxes.

She doubled down today, using an appearance on Good Morning Britain to insist that the vaccination scheme was working better than in England.

‘Monday and Tuesday we vaccinated a record number over a 24 hour period and this week to date we have probably, proportionately, we have vaccinated about 30 per cent more than is the case in England, so we are catching up with that,’ she said.  

Scotland posted its worst vaccination figures so far last Sunday, and although numbers have picked up since the First Minister is under mounting pressure to speed it up yet further.

Commons Leader Mr Rees-Mogg was quizzed in the Commons this morning by the SNP about whether the devolved nations could be handed greater financial powers to tackle Covid-19.

‘On the fiscal arrangements, it is worth reminding the honourable gentleman that £8.6 billion of UK taxpayers’ money has gone to help Scotland during the pandemic and it is the strength of the United Kingdom that throughout this pandemic has provided the support that has been needed,’Mr Rees-Mogg told SNP spokesman Owen Thompson.

‘He may chunter behind his elegant mask but that means 779,500 jobs in the furlough scheme, it means £1.13 billion in the self-employed scheme. It is a really important unionist level of support.

‘And we know now that the unionist government is helping the devolved Scottish government roll-out its vaccine programme that more people will be going from the British Army to help set-up more vaccine centres.

‘We know now that the unionist government is helping the devolved Scottish government roll out its vaccine programme, that more people will be going from the British Army to help set up more vaccine centres,’ he replied.

‘This is our UK Government bailing out a devolved government. That is what we do and we should be really proud of the United Kingdom which has such strength as one country.’   

Jacob Rees-Mogg made the claim as British Army medics began helping administer jabs in the country today.

First Minister Ms Sturgeon used an appearance on Good Morning Britain to insist that the vaccination scheme was working better than in England

Derek Fraser from Edinburgh receives a vaccine from Captain Robert Reid from 3 Medical Regiment who are assisting with the vaccination programme at the Royal Highland Showground

More than 200 members of military personnel are supporting the vaccination rollout across Scotland

The latest personnel sent to Scotland are in addition to the 98 members of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards who are already supporting the vaccine effort.

NHS Lothian is among the health boards to receive immediate military assistance, with personnel administering vaccinations at the Royal Highland Showground near Edinburgh.

Up to 24 logistic support staff, mostly from Edinburgh-based 3rd Battalion The Rifles, will also assist with the running of vaccination centres in Grampian, Dumfries and Galloway and the Scottish Borders.

It brings the number of military personnel supporting the rollout in Scotland to more than 200.

When asked if she would change the date of school pupils returning in Scotland if it does not meet its target of vaccinating all over-70s by February 15, Ms Sturgeon said it was ‘a hypothetical question but we’re on track to meet that target’.

Despite the current lockdown being extended until at least the end of the month it is hoped P1-P3 pupils will return from February 22 along with nurseries, while senior high school pupils could also return to classes part-time ‘on a very limited basis’ to do practical work necessary for their courses.

Ms Sturgeon added: ‘Many teachers will be vaccinated in (the JCVI) priority list because of age or probably more likely because of underlying health conditions but the reason they have recommended that list is that these are the people most clinically vulnerable.

‘There’s also the fact that we don’t yet know the impact of the vaccine, although the early indications are good on transmission, so it’s not the case that just because we vaccinate teachers that would take away transmission possibilities in schools.

‘That’s why we’ve got to have other mitigations in place – I think Scotland was first to bring in a requirement for face coverings, particularly in senior schools.

‘So there’s lots of work to make schools as safe as possible but we know the damage that has been done to young people by being out of school, so as far as we can… safety cannot be compromised.’

Ms Sturgeon has labelled arguments that Brexit has brought a benefit to the UK procuring more coronavirus vaccines as ‘over-simplistic’.

During her interview on GMB she was asked about comments made by SNP MP Dr Philippa Whitford last July when she said the UK Government should be working with EU partners to find a vaccine.

Interviewer Susanna Reid suggested the UK now managing to get vaccines because it is not part of the EU vaccination programme ‘must be one of the most powerful arguments for Brexit’.

The SNP leader replied: ‘I think there’s a bigger point but I’m not going to sit here and say anything other than I think it’s really good that the UK has managed to procure as much vaccine and that the UK as a whole is getting ahead in terms of vaccine.

‘We all have an interest in seeing all countries get the populations vaccinated because this is a global pandemic but I think the UK is in a very strong position.

‘That the vaccination procurement and the approval of the vaccines started while the UK was still in the EU transition period, the rules around the European Medicines Agency would have allowed that to happen anyway.’

She added: ‘Of course you can make that argument but sometimes I think it’s a slightly over-simplistic argument, but we should all be pleased that the vaccination programme is going so well.

‘The issues around Brexit are much wider and more fundamental but even on this narrow point I think if you were to apply really detailed scrutiny it wouldn’t be quite that simple.

‘The UK, even if it had still been in the EU under the rules of medicines approval would still have been able to take decisions around vaccines as it has done.

‘But it’s thoroughly a good thing that the UK has got such good supplies. Obviously all of us want to make sure those supplies keep flowing.

‘The UK Government procures on a four nations basis – that is something we voluntarily signed into – but it’s a good thing, and we should be pleased about it.’

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