NICOLA Sturgeon has been labelled “irresponsible” by Douglas Ross following an angry exchange between the pair over whether an independent Scotland would have been able to bring forward a successful vaccine rollout.

During an online hustings event for students, the First Minister and the Scottish Conservative leader clashed over the Covid-19 vaccine programme – with Mr Ross telling Ms Sturgeon “your rollout was poor”.

Mr Ross pointed to the lacklustre rollout of the vaccine in mainland Europe with EU nations struggling to keep pace with the programme in the UK.

But the First Minister blasted Mr Ross for insinuating an independent Scotland could not procure the vaccine on a UK-wide basis.

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She said: “The UK chose to procure in the way that it did, and you're saying it couldn't have done that and Scotland couldn't have chosen to do that with the other UK nations had we been a member of the EU.

“That is quite simply not true.”

Ms Sturgeon added: "We procured the vaccine the same way we procure the flu vaccine and you don't have to tell me how many people are being vaccinated with the first dose.

"I spend every day overseeing the programme, so stop talking down our vaccination programme for political purposes, it is disgraceful to seek to do that."

Speaking to journalists today, Mr Ross insisted he was not talking down Scotland’s vaccintors – stressing that “not a single politician is undermining the outstanding effort they have put in”.

He added: “However, you cannot ignore the fact that in Scotland over 60% of people, from yesterday’s figures, have received the first dose of the vaccine and I was just looking at the European figures where the average is 20.5%.

“By any measure, we are miles ahead here in Scotland.

“The fact that Nicola Sturgeon refuses to accept that’s because of the procurement and development of the vaccine that the United Kingdom has taken forward is churlish, it’s irresponsible and the fact that she got so angry about even being questioned about that shows that I think she doesn’t want to accept the unquestionable benefits of the Union of the United Kingdom of delivering our way out of this pandemic through the vaccination programme.”

The Scottish Tory leader was pressed over the First Minister’s argument that an independent Scotland could still procure vaccinations on a UK-wide basis.

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He said: “It’s very critical then of independent countries such as Ireland who are on 22.6%. What have Ireland got it wrong but Nicola Sturgeon would get it right?

“What are Burlgaria down at 8.8% but Nicola Sturgeon would have got it right?”

He added: “It is beyond belief that Nicola Sturgeon would somehow be able to do it better than all these other independent countries within the European Union.

“It’s clear that we’ve only been able to achieve this because we are part of the United Kingdom which was procuring and developing these vaccines at the early stage of the pandemic.

“Nicola Sturgeon’s argument falls at the first hurdle.”

During the NUS hustings event, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar was told to “get off the fence” by the First Minister and was told to “decide which side you're on".

Mr Sarwar said: “I think my position is pretty clear.

"I like to not forget about half of the country that doesn't agree with me on the constitution because I think we need to pull out country back together.

"We are in a pandemic after all and 10,000 of our fellow citizens have lost their lives. Perhaps others could remember that sometimes."