THE First Minister insisted there was no way that the government could have vaccinated 100% of the 40-49 age group without making jabs compulsory.

Opposition parties attacked the Scottish Government over a pledge to give second doses to the 40-49 age group by Monday (July 26), when just 75.8% of that group are now fully covered.

We previously told how the First Minister denied the target was missed, and that it was in fact to offer first doses, not to provide them, by July 26.

And after days of the row growing, Nicola Sturgeon delivered a scathing response when asked about the issue during a Covid-19 briefing in St Andrew’s house this afternoon.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon urges pregnant women to get Covid vaccine

Sturgeon said that she “assumes a level of intelligence” of those listening to her and the ability to put her words into “context” and “common sense”.

Without making the vaccine programme compulsory Sturgeon pointed out it would be difficult to reach 100% uptake, and that other UK nations were working along the same lines towards similar targets.

The First Minister claimed that no questions were asked by opposition politicians or journalists about the vaccine target at the time.

Sturgeon said: “When I communicate, and I apologise if this is an error, 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 National:

Sturgeon defended the vaccine roll out amid a row over targets

“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 read out there, what I actually meant was that I was giving a guarantee that by a certain date a 100% of people would not just have been offered the vaccine but would have had the vaccine.

“Now 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, in fact I don’t think there was a single one, asking me how on earth I was going to deliver that commitment.

“How could I, without saying vaccination would be compulsory for every person with no exception, even if they’ve had the virus within four weeks which right now means you can’t get vaccinated, unless I was saying that, how could I have possibly guaranteed 100% uptake of a voluntary vaccination programme?”

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon delivers scathing verdict on active anti-vaxxers at briefing

Currently, 91% of over-40s have been fully vaccinated, and there are high uptake rates in the other age groups too.

She added: “Everybody with any thought attached to it would have known, not least because it’s what all governments across the UK are doing, is that what I was committing to, which is what we have delivered, is making sure 100% had been offered an appointment for a vaccine.

“Short of compulsion, how could I have said that I was guaranteeing it would be 100% uptake.

“So what we have done is make sure we deliver on the commitment to appointments and we continue to work and get uptake levels as high as possible.

“They are already extraordinarily high, but particularly in the younger age groups we want them to get higher.”

The National:

The First Minister encouraged those who need a second jab to attend a drop-in centre

Sturgeon then apologised for appearing “irritated” at the question.

She added: “This is not just any old political issue, this is a global pandemic, it really matters and all of us, scrutiny on the government matters and even if I sound irritated by that I know how important it is and I don’t shy away from that, but surely we should all try to have grown up, sophisticated, nuanced discussion.

“And the most important thing right now is not getting into some kind of dancing on the head of a pin debate about what I meant when I used a particular word, but how do we go from the sensible position we had, which we met in terms of the target, to all of us trying to persuade those who haven’t been vaccinated to get vaccinated, that’s what I’m focussed on and will continue to focus on.”