NICOLA Sturgeon has warned there is a “very real risk” that conspiracy theories about a coronavirus vaccine could undermine the fight against the pandemic.

At First Minister’s Questions, Green MSP Patrick Harvie said online conspiracies were gaining an audience in Scotland, including “Covid denial and anti-vaccine myths".

He said it was “a very real threat to public health”, with the Royal Society suggesting around a third of people were “uncertain or unlikely to accept a vaccine when it is available”.

He asked Ms Sturgeon what her Government was doing to combat “dangerous” conspiracy theories and “build public confidence in a future vaccine so we can maximise uptake”.

The First Minister said: “I think the risk Patrick Harvie sets out there is a very real risk, in public health and the Covid context in particular, but more widely to our democracy.

“I think all of us should guard against buying into conspiracy theories on the internet or anywhere else, and on Covid that is obviously particularly important.”

She stressed Covid vaccines would go through “all the proper and regulatory processes”.

She said: “It is important we are all very clear that when vaccines are given clearance to be used, then they are safe to use.”

Ms Sturgeon said the Scottish Government would “make sure all of the information about the vaccine is made available and we take steps to address any concerns that people have”.

She said: “There are no guarantees yet, but I hope we may even be a position before the end of this year or certainly very early next year to start vaccinating people against Covid.

When that happened, the clear message would be “if you are in one of the eligible groups come forward for vaccination, you are protecting yourselves but you are also helping to protect others, and politicians and parliament as a whole will have a big part to play in that”.