An effective response to covid-19 does indeed need to be a co-ordinated response across the whole United Kingdom, informing every aspect of the UK Government’s response. For instance, on 24 November, the UK Government and the three devolved Administrations published a joint statement on UK-wide arrangements for the festive season. We are currently working with the devolved Administrations on the deployment of vaccines and community testing across the UK.
Last month, an opinion poll revealed that 68% of Scots want the Scottish and UK Governments to work more closely together. Minister, why is it that, despite that, the Scottish and UK Governments are not able to work in a co-ordinated manner, and why are we constantly seeing mixed messages and infighting?
It is not for me to say what mixed messages the hon. Gentleman might see in the press or get from political parties. The UK Government and all assemblies across the whole UK work together on a co-ordinated basis to deliver not just what has been delivered up to now; there was the excellent news yesterday of the first vaccines being provided across the whole UK—not in one part of the UK or another but across the UK on the same day. Vaccines are an excellent example of that co-operation between the UK Government and the devolved Administrations, and the UK Government are procuring vaccines on behalf of the UK as a whole. The prioritisation of the vaccines is a devolved matter—
The news of the vaccine’s approval is incredibly encouraging, but we now face the greatest organisational challenge perhaps since the second world war in distributing it to all who want and need it across the four UK nations. Given the botched roll-out of the flu vaccine in Scotland this year, how is the Minister going to ensure that Scottish Ministers are able to get the delivery of the covid vaccine right?
I am conscious of the time, so I shall give a very brief answer. Local deployment of the vaccines is a devolved matter, but Ministry of Defence Ministers have made military planners available to the Scottish Government to facilitate the complex task of mass deployment.