YESTERDAY the UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid was put forward to represent the UK Government on the morning politics shows.

When he was asked about vaccine passports for England, the Health Secretary insisted that no final decision had been made.

Less than an hour later, he told the Andrew Marr show “we will not be going ahead with plans for vaccine passports”.

Mr Javid tried his best to deny that the Government had just performed a screeching U-turn live on television but in truth, that’s exactly what happened.

On Wednesday, I felt a twinge of sympathy for the UK vaccines minister, Nadhim Zahawi, when he was sent forth to try and sell the idea of vaccine passports to a cohort of loudly sceptical Tory MPs.

READ MORE: UK Government scraps plans for vaccine passports in England

He took an absolute battering in the Commons, with some of his colleagues accusing him of pretending to support a policy which he himself thought was a dud.

Tory MP William Wragg said the minister’s statement was “a load of rubbish’’.

“I do not believe that my honourable friend believes a word he just uttered, because I remember him stating very persuasively my position, which we shared at the time, that this measure would be discriminatory. Yet he is sent to the Dispatch Box to defend the indefensible.”

Before Sajid Javid’s U-turn, the UK Government’s position on vaccine certification was similar to that of the Scottish Government. During the Urgent Question on Wednesday, the vaccines minister said that the introduction of vaccine passports was “designed to reduce transmission and serious illness’’.

In the few days it has taken for Boris Johnson to change his mind, the evidence that necessitated the policy in the first place is unlikely to have changed. He has made a political calculation that vaccine passports are not worth a war with his backbenches. I make no criticism of him for that. In many ways, it was easier for our politicians to take tough decisions right at the beginning of the pandemic, when uncertainty reigned and the development of an effective vaccine was a distant prospect.

Now, there is a tricky balance to be struck. Case numbers are high but – thankfully – deaths and hospitalisations are not. There is little appetite among the public for the reintroduction of restrictions and even those measures which – when compared to near-total shutdown of large parts of the economy and the curtailing of personal freedoms – are relatively small, are still met with anger and unease.

Last week, MSPs voted to introduce vaccine certification for nightclubs and large events in Scotland from October 1st. All opposition parties voted against, but the scheme was passed thanks to the SNP-Green cooperation agreement.

Douglas Ross came under fire for opposing the policy at Holyrood while backing it at Westminster. He thought it was a good idea for England but not for Scotland. Now England won’t implement it but Scotland will.

What happens next will be interesting. Scotland is currently an outlier on vaccine certification in the UK, with Welsh ministers due to make a decision on the policy next week and Stormont yet to take an official position.

Much will now be made of the diverging approach between Scotland and England. For both governments, it is a massive gamble.

Nicola Sturgeon has faced a backlash from opposition parties, commentators and businesses for going ahead with plans for vaccine certification. It’s not a popular policy and she will have known when she decided to go ahead with it the likely outcome in terms of negative headlines and column inches.

Despite the shambolic process that preceded his decision, Boris Johnson will now win praise for preventing unnecessary bureaucracy and protecting the economy.

Insofar as it is possible to judge the “right” approach we don’t yet know which one will prove to be so. In time, Nicola Sturgeon’s caution in the face of rising case numbers may prove to be unwarranted. Unless the vaccine certification roll out and implementation is seamless – which seems unlikely – the Scottish Government has all but scheduled in more criticism for itself. Which means she must truly believe the policy is worth it.

As winter approaches, we may see the NHS – across the UK – struggling to cope with demand, as the flu season collides with rising Coronavirus case numbers to catastrophic effect.

READ MORE: Scotland sticking with Covid passport plan despite England U-turn, Swinney says

If an uptick in young people getting double-jagged helps protect Scotland against some of the worst consequences of that, then Nicola Sturgeon’s gamble might well pay off.

If England’s approach, of as few restrictions as possible, including ditching masks and vaccine certification to gain entry to large events, is found to have exacerbated that problem then Boris Johnson’s gamble will have not.

One of our leaders has taken a hugely unpopular decision and will now face political pressure to backtrack on it, the other has already done so and is winning plaudits for keeping England as “normal” as possible. Time will tell which leader will be vindicated but for now, both can only hope that the path they have chosen is the right one.