'On track to hit all targets’ is just not true. The [Scottish Government] target was to vaccinate 1 million Scots by 1st February, until you moved the goalposts” – Tory MSP Dean Lockhart, February 7, 2021.


In November 2020 – before vaccine any deliveries had been confirmed by the UK Government – Scottish Health Secretary Jeane Freeman promised to put in place a national Covid vaccination system and ensure coverage for the vulnerable elderly and NHS and care staff by the start of February. This has been achieved and more.


On February 7, the First Minister tweeted that Scotland had registered a record 52,839 vaccinations given the previous day and that a total of 839,226 people had had their first dose of a Covid serum.

This total included 99.5 per cent of older care home residents, 90 per cent of care staff in adult care homes, over 94 per cent of over-80s living in community, 64 per cent of those aged 75-79 and 26 per cent of those aged 70-74. She went on to say Scotland was on track to hit all the Scottish Government's vaccination targets.

READ MORE: Scotland to hit one million vaccine milestone within days, Nicola Sturgeon says

Nicola Sturgeon’s statement attracted instant criticism from the Unionist parties. A prominent critic was Tory MSP Dean Lockhart, shadow spokesperson for the constitution. Lockhart accused the FM of “moving the goalposts” by abandoning earlier targets for vaccination numbers.

Lockhart is the MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife. Formerly he was a corporate lawyer in Asian working in “structured finance transactions”. His various public biographies are somewhat coy. He mentions attending “an executive MBA course at Harvard” but makes no mention of passing on his Linkedin account.


On November 19, 2020, Health Secretary Jeane Freeman made a long statement to the Scottish Parliament covering plans for the Covid vaccination programme (available on the Scottish Parliament TV site). This statement was made before any vaccines had been delivered and before the full complement of extra vaccination staff had been recruited.

Freeman was at pains to lay out the provisional planning assumptions and that “vaccine availability and delivery schedules were yet to be confirmed” by the UK Government and the pharmaceutical companies.

Subject to these provisos – especially prompt deliveries by external agents and being able to source and train over 2000 new vaccination staff – she said the Scottish Government would be in a position “to vaccinate around a million people by that time”, i.e. the end of January 2021. Freeman also noted that the wider Scottish population would probably have to wait until late spring or early summer 2021 to be vaccinated.

READ MORE: Jeane Freeman urges the UK to toughen up hotel quarantine policy

Freeman laid particular stress on safety: “I want to be clear that safety is paramount in our approach to the Covid-19 vaccination programme. The global scientific, research and pharmaceutical community has come together and worked as never before. That is why we are seeing the front running vaccines delivered in months rather than years, but it is not at the expense of safety.

The National:

“Any Covid-19 vaccines deployed in Scotland will be used on the basis of compelling public health grounds, and only when the regulatory bodies and those charged with providing independent clinical advice are satisfied in terms of vaccine safety and effectiveness. The groups we vaccinate first will also be those most at risk from Covid-19."

Freeman also emphasised that this new vaccination programme was unique and had to be built up carefully: “Scotland has a strong track record of delivering immunisation programmes, but this programme will be the largest of its kind ever undertaken and we will need more than 2000 vaccinators and support staff by the end of January for the first phase."

READ MORE: Five people fined after travelling from England to Edinburgh for lockdown party

Given the uncertainties in the middle of last November concerning vaccine approvals and deliveries, Freeman’s statement is measured and lacks the usual bombast associated with vaccine announcements from the Westminster Government.

She lays out the difficulties that have to be overcome in minute detail. She lays special emphasis on vaccinating the priority targets – the over-80s and NHS and care home staff. The mention of a figure of “around a million” vaccinations by the end of January is wrapped in caveats.


No reasonable person reviewing the original Freeman statement to the Scottish Parliament could conclude she was offering a cast iron guarantee that a million or a million plus vaccinations would take place by January 31. Rather, the Health Secretary lays the stress on getting the logistics of the vaccination programme into place and ensuring that by February the elderly and health workers would be vaccinated. These milestones were in fact reached.

Note: as reported to Westminster by England’s vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi on February 5, the latest vaccine situation south of the Border is lagging, on a percentage basis, in the core target demographics prioritised by the Scottish Government.


The National: National Fact Check False

Another Tory financier gets his sums wrong.