Scottish Government in transparency row as daily data for number of vaccines in Scotland kept secret
Vaccine supply from the very start of the roll-out will be kept secret by the Scottish Government after it claimed releasing the information on the number of jags in Scotland at any stage of the pandemic would hurt negotiations with pharmaceutical companies.
Responding to a Freedom of Information response that requested the number of Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines delivered to Scotland on a day-by-day basis since the start of the roll-out, officials claimed releasing the data would “prejudice” the “economic interests of the whole or part of the United Kingdom”.
Nicola Sturgeon and health secretary Jeane Freeman came under significant pressure from the UK Government after releasing data about future supply of the Covid-19 vaccine.
The mistake led to the Scottish Government’s vaccine deployment plan being deleted from its website, but the First Minister later claimed the row was merely a “hissy fit” by Number 10 and the Scottish Government was trying to be as transparent as possible.
Choosing to keep the data secret, the Scottish Government claimed that disclosure “could prejudice the UK Government’s negotiations with pharmaceutical companies on supply volumes to the UK”.
Opposition politicians have hit out at a culture of secrecy within the Scottish Government, with vaccine supply data highlighted as “crucial” to judge the success of the roll-out.
Scottish Labour’s interim leader Jackie Baillie said the response was a “trademark” of the SNP.
She said: “Secrecy has become the SNP Government’s trademark response to questions it does not want to answer, and refusing to disclose the number of vaccine doses already available to Scotland is yet another example of its unwillingness to show full transparency in its actions.
“Outlining the current levels of available vaccine should not be commercially sensitive, but is crucial in the fight against the pandemic.
"If the Scottish Government truly wishes to be as accountable as it claims, it must now come clean and start showing exactly where they are in the vaccination roll-out.”
Donald Cameron, the Scottish Conservative’s health spokesperson, agreed.
He said: “The SNP's hostility to openness and transparency has long been apparent.
"Having failed in their shameful plot to suspend freedom of information at the start of the pandemic, we now see them using it to block information that is in the public interest."
The Scottish Liberal Democrats and the Scottish Greens also criticised the decision to withhold the information.
Liberal Democrat MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton said: "It would be easier to convince people that their sacrifices are worthwhile if there was clearer data about what the hold-up is and what work is being done to overcome it.
"The Scottish Government should treat the public like adults and work with their counterparts across the UK to give people as much information as possible."
Scottish Green MSP Mark Ruskell, who sits on Covid committee, said: “The most important thing is that we get enough people vaccinated to beat this killer virus. That’s why confidence in the vaccine relies on JCVI guidance being strictly followed.
"But clearly confidence would also be boosted by transparency from both governments and the assurance that all avenues are being pursued to ensure the rollout can go as quickly as possible. The privacy of commercial arrangements with big pharmaceutical companies is a lesser priority.”
The Scottish Government was contacted for comment.
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