Government urged ‘focus on vaccine rollout, not indyref2’

Scottish Tories lodge motion urging government to set up a task force to oversee the rollout of the coronavirus vaccine.

Government urged ‘focus on vaccine rollout, not indyref2’ Getty Images

The Scottish Government should focus on the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine instead of independence, the Scottish Tories will say in a Holyrood debate.

A motion lodged by the party ahead of a debate on Wednesday urges the Scottish Government to scrap plans for an independence referendum and set up a task force to oversee the rollout of the vaccine, similar to a group being set up by the SNP in preparation for another poll.

It is understood that the Scottish Government has been allocated 984,000 doses from the UK Government, with 437,900 inoculations having taken place as of Tuesday morning.

However, it is not clear if the Scottish Government has taken delivery of its full allocation of vaccine.

The debate will come as the SNP ramps up its planning for another independence referendum, after Constitution Secretary Mike Russell unveiled a roadmap to another vote at the weekend.

In the plan, the Scottish Parliament would legislate for another vote if a pro-independence majority is returned at May’s election, meaning it would be for the UK Government to challenge the validity of such a decision in court.

Before the end of the parliamentary term, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said a draft Bill would be published, setting out the timing of another independence referendum.

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross has accused the Scottish Government of being “distracted”.

“The SNP’s Covid-19 vaccine rollout has slowed just as their push for indyref2 has ramped up considerably,” he said.

“They are distracted from the huge challenge facing us by their obsession with holding another divisive referendum at the earliest opportunity.

“Nothing could be more reckless and damaging than seeking to split up the country just as both governments are working together to boost the vaccine rollout and maintain ambulance services in Scotland.

“The SNP are risking Scotland’s recovery to pursue their own selfish goal of separation.

“They need to get a grip on the vaccine rollout before they fall even further behind their targets. Our focus must be fully on delivering the vaccine so the whole country can move forward from this crisis.”

When challenged by Tory MSP Jamie Greene in parliament on Tuesday about the vaccine rollout, Deputy First Minister John Swinney said: “There are not 500,000 doses of the vaccine in our hands in Scotland, able to be used at this present moment.

“There are more vaccines being allocated to Scotland than are in our hands and they will be drawn down as soon as the distributors are able to verify those supplies and distribute them on to us in Scotland and that’s the orderly path that we are taking.”

A spokeswoman for the First Minister said: “The Scottish Government is absolutely focused on tackling the pandemic, which remains everyone’s top priority.

“We paused work on independence last year at the start of the Covid crisis, unlike the Tories who disgracefully ploughed ahead with Brexit in the middle of the pandemic.

“But the question is who the people of Scotland want to be in charge of rebuilding our country and economy – a Scottish Government or a Westminster one led by the likes of Boris Johnson?

“We are determined to give the people of Scotland that choice.”

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