Nicola Sturgeon has been urged by opposition MSPs to correct her statement on vaccine targets and clarify if future goals for lifting restrictions have been downgraded.
Scottish Conservative health spokeswoman Annie Wells has written to the Scottish Parliament’s presiding officer, Alison Johnstone, to ask that the First Minister immediately “correct the record” over previous remarks.
However, in a self-described “rant” against opposition politicians and journalists on Tuesday, Ms Sturgeon quipped that she assumes a “certain level of intelligence” on the part of people who listen to her.
She rejects claims that targets have been missed.
Why are vaccine targets statements by Nicola Sturgeon under the microscope?
Ms Sturgeon has come under fire after it emerged 75.8% of people in the 40 to 49 age bracket had received their second vaccine on Monday, despite her pledge that everyone in this group would be “given” both doses by the start of the week.
In a statement to the Scottish Parliament on June 22, she told MSPs: “By July 26, we expect to have given second doses to all 40 to 49-year-olds, and by August 20, all 30 to 39-year-olds will have had a second dose.
“Finally, we expect to have completed second doses for all adults by September 12.”
Has the Scottish Government fallen short on vaccine targets?
The Scottish Conservatives believe so.
Analysis by the Tories – based on data from July 25 – indicates 36.1% of 30 to 39-year-olds had received a second dose.
At the current rate, the target to vaccinate everyone in that age group by August 20 would fall short by 307,301 people.
The September 12 target to vaccinate the whole adult population – which currently sits at 69.1% – would fall short by 627,436 people, according to the findings.
On Monday, amid criticism over the number of people still waiting for their second dose, Ms Sturgeon said: “What we set ourselves the target of was offering, by now, the first dose of the vaccine to every adult, everybody over the age of 18, and two doses to the over 40 age group.”
The Scottish Conservatives claim Ms Sturgeon “shifted the goalposts” by changing the target from people being given the vaccine to merely being offered.
That, they say, is a “very different measure”.
Scottish Labour health and Covid recovery spokeswoman Jackie Baillie took aim at the Scottish Government over the 40 to 49 age bracket issues.
She said: “The SNP’s failure to meet this flagship target is humiliating for them but it should worry us all.
“The First Minister was clear that the lifting of restrictions depends on the success of the vaccine rollout.
“But their failure to meet key targets raises fresh doubts.
“From the stalling vaccine programme to the collapse of test and protect, the SNP’s complacency has become the single biggest threat to our journey out of lockdown.”
Previous Covid blunders and opposition response
The issue has been compounded by deputy first minister John Swinney being forced to apologise last week for posting a misleading Covid graphic after he was reported to the UK Statistics Authority.
Last month, the UK Statistics Authority also criticised health secretary Humza Yousaf for “inaccurate” use of child Covid statistics.
Ms Wells said: “It is clear that the first minister has shifted the goalposts by changing the target from people being ‘given’ the vaccine to merely being ‘offered’ the vaccine.
“When a target is set, it is unacceptable to change it at a later date, so that it becomes easier to claim success.
“By acting in this way, the government loses public trust and prevents proper scrutiny of their actions.
“The public deserve honest information.
“Nicola Sturgeon must be clear if future targets have also been downgraded and if, as a result of the SNP Government’s failure to deliver on its original promises, the planned easing of restrictions in early August is now in jeopardy.
“Scotland and the UK’s vaccine rollout has been a huge success overall.
“However, at this late stage, it is right that the first minister continues to face scrutiny from the opposition when she breaks a promise and fails to deliver on targets set by her own government.”
What has First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said about the vaccine targets row?
At a media briefing on Tuesday, Ms Sturgeon – who appeared exasperated by journalists’ questions – said she was “really glad” the issue had been raised.
She said: “I kind of communicate at a level where I assume a certain level of intelligence on the part of people listening to me – because I think that’s justified – and I assume a certain ability to attach context and common sense to what I am saying.
The claim about a ‘missed target’ is downright inaccurate – no vaccination targets have been missed. All adults have been offered first dose appointments – and 91% of over 40s have had both doses. But vaccination is voluntary, so we continue work to push uptake even higher. https://t.co/lNsoEIuw0o
— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) July 26, 2021
“Now, I’ll go from there to taking what, over the last couple of days, has appeared to be an interpretation by opposition politicians and by some journalists that when I said what you’ve just read out there, what I actually meant was that I was giving a guarantee that by a certain date 100% of people would not just have been offered the vaccine, but would have had the vaccine.
“All I would say is if that is genuinely what people – journalists, opposition politicians – thought I meant, and that I had committed to that, without compulsory vaccination, I’m genuinely really surprised that there wasn’t a clamour of questions asking me how I was going to deliver that commitment.”
Ms Sturgeon stressed that she would like to see a focus on “grown up, sophisticated, nuanced discussions” rather than a “dancing on the head of a pin debate” about what she meant when she used a particular word.
Ms Wells later accused the first minister of a “Trump-style meltdown for the ages” and putting forward a defence of “nobody understands Nicola except Nicola”.
“People hoping for answers to serious questions instead got a truly bizarre rant,” Ms Wells said.
“She talked down to us mere mortals because we had the audacity to believe she had meant what she said in the Scottish Parliament.”