by Colin Campbell
ON Monday a widely publicised new online calculator which gives a target date for when those of different age groups in Scotland should/could expect to receive the first, crucial dose of the coronavirus vaccination went live. It’s not official but its calculations are based on broad targets which have been set by the Scottish Government.
I entered my details and got a projection for around the middle of March, less than two months away. Of course, I didn’t take this as gospel. The projection could have been out by a matter of weeks. Nevertheless, it seemed a legitimate indicator of an approximate time when I might be vaccinated. Not too long, it seemed, until a major change kicks in after 10 long months of this ordeal.
But on Tuesday figures emerged which showed only a few thousand people in Scotland were vaccinated last Sunday, only a fraction of the number needed to meet that target date.
As has been so often the case since this all started, one step forward, one, or maybe two steps back. It’s been one very long, very bumpy rollercoaster.
One newspaper, which has not been hostile to the SNP Government, described the rollout as “a shambles”. The evidence and the facts and figures are there to prove that vaccination in Scotland per head of population is lagging well behind what’s being achieved in England.
This is too important an issue for partisan politics to be brought into the equation, just for the sake of it. I’d be delighted if the Scottish Government were world-beaters in their vaccination programme, and if it gained them some extra votes in May, so be it. But so far they’re not, far from it.
It’s a massive task and it seems quite clearly that they have not risen fully to the challenge. The supplies are there but distribution appears to have been patchy and inadequate.
Lives are at stake. The first dose of the vaccine will provide 70 per cent protection from the virus – although you can still contract it and can still spread it – but it should for everyone who receives it provide a 100 per cent guarantee that they will not die from it or end up fighting for life in intensive care on a respirator.
But it is not being partisan to question if the SNP’s new drive for independence is proving a distraction from getting the vaccination programme running effectively.
On the day the numbers of those who received the jab slumped to a dismal new low Nicola Sturgeon, looking exhausted, haggard and strained, appeared on television to argue the case for an illegal referendum.
Many people are bitterly hostile to the SNP and their crazy indyref2 plan. But even others who are more equivocal may well consider the timing of her intervention grossly misjudged and terribly mistimed.
It’s very difficult to see how they could think otherwise.
Everyone can agree that the First Minister has an awful lot to deal with these days.
But she has taken the decision to try and appease the fanatics and zealots within the SNP by promising to hold an illegal referendum if the SNP win a majority in the May Holyrood elections.
That has added to the 24/7 pressure on her and it’s impossible to see how it’s anything other than a distraction from what should be the absolute priority of getting the vaccination programme working effectively.
Whatever the reason for the laggard pace of vaccination north of the border it’s a serious cause for concern for people on a personal basis.
Sturgeon and the SNP are particularly fond of comparing Boris Johnson to Donald Trump.
Well the Trump factor in this case applies much more to them. As Donald Trump found, virus concerns among the public are not something which can be blown away with bluster and fantasy talk.
The facts and figures are there for everyone to see.
Nicola Sturgeon and her SNP Government have to prove that they are fully up to the task before them. Quite rightly, their performance is being watched by people of all political persuasions with laser beam focus.
They can either get this right – and catch up with vaccination levels in England – or they can get it wrong through confusion and inadequacy. They will be well enough aware of that.
And they also be well aware that hard and fast statistics will be evidence of their progress. And that if Scotland is left trailing, this one issue where no amount of spin, lying and grievance-mongering will get them off the hook as people mark this down as another SNP Government failure, and the worst and most devastating of all.