Scottish ministers have not requested the help of Army “quick reaction teams” to support the Covid vaccination effort, despite supply outstripping delivery north of the border.
Donald Cameron, the Scottish Conservative health spokesman, said that Scotland’s vaccination rollout is “falling behind the curve”.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace told MPs the Army is on hand and ready to help “if asked for”.
He said: “At the beginning of this, we deployed helicopters up to Kinloss to make sure we look after the Highlands and Islands.
“We stand by, ready to do that. Notwithstanding, we have planners in the Scottish Government to help.
“At the moment, we haven’t received a request for the use of some of these quick reaction vaccine teams but they are for the taking, if they are asked for.”
The response led Highland MP Jamie Stone to question whether the Scottish Government was putting independence politics before the pandemic response.
He said: “The Highlands and Islands are being robbed of their chance to be vaccinated.
“Our armed forces have done a great job in getting people in hard-to-reach areas tested during the pandemic and they could be helping us vaccinate people, but as the Secretary of State for Defence confirmed to me today, the Scottish Government has not made any request for that help.
“They talk about acting at pace, so why haven’t they made use of this critical resource?
“I really hope that independence politics is being kept out of Covid-19 decision making and that every opportunity to vaccinate people in the Highlands and Islands is being taken, not wasted.”
Mr Stone has now written to the Scottish health secretary, Jeane Freeman, demanding to know why the military had not been utilised.
‘Army already supporting planning activity’
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The vaccination programme is functioning well across Scotland – and it is entirely incorrect to claim otherwise.
“The army is already supporting planning activity at a national and local level across Scotland, and we will continue to look at how the armed forces can help the rollout of vaccines.
“Delivery of the vaccine is being taken forward by NHS Scotland. The Health Secretary recently approved additional support from the army for rolling out the vaccine.
“The national scheduling system, built on NSS Service Now, will be ready this month and we anticipate no delay to appointments during the rollout.
“Scotland will initially receive up to 533,640 doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine over the course of January with further doses becoming available via regular delivery throughout early 2021.
“Including the Pfizer vaccine, that gives us almost 900,000 doses in January. Those doses will be allocated to health boards on a population share.”