Nicola Sturgeon anger over Boris Johnson decision to cut funding for free covid tests

Nicola Sturgeon has expressed her anger at Boris Johnson’s decision to end funding for free covid test kits across the UK when lateral flow tests are no no longer required in England.

The First Minister committed to continuing with lateral flow packages and self-isolation guidance in Scotland for at least another month while she seeks clarity from Whitehall on funding.

The First Minister said she was frustrated that there was no guarantee on Treasury funding to carry on handing tests out to the public in Scotland when the system comes to an end in England in April.

Giving an update to Holyrood, the SNP leader made it plain she wanted to continue with PCR and lateral flow testing free of charge and to retain advice that those testing positive for covid should isolate.

She said: “On this point, I must express frustration at the position of the UK government. It is, of course, for the Prime Minister to decide how best to tackle covid in England.”

Nicola Sturgeon pledged free access to lateral flow testing would remain
Nicola Sturgeon pledged free access to lateral flow testing would remain

“However, current funding arrangements mean that though taxpayers in all four UK nations contribute to the costs, it is decisions taken for England that determine the resources available to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland for testing and other Covid measures.

“As of now, we have no clarity on how much of the covid testing infrastructure the UK government intends to retain; no clarity on how much investment will support it in future and no clarity on whether the Treasury will provide additional resources to pay for it or demand instead that funding is taken from elsewhere in the health budget.”

“I hope we get this clarity soon so that we can out in more detail our longer term approach to testing.”

Sturgeon said that she wanted “a careful, phased transition” to a system of testing that is more targeted but which retained capacity to respond rapidly to the emergence of new variants and to manage local outbreaks.

She told MSPs: “I want to give an assurance that the Scottish Government is determined to retain a robust testing system capable of providing Scotland with strong resilience against future Covid threats, and firmly aligned with public health advice and the principles underpinning our National Health Service.”

Sturgeon added: “So in March – by which time I hope we will have more clarity from the UK government on available resources – we will publish a detailed plan for Test and Protect, setting out our priorities in more detail, and describing the scale of infrastructure that will remain in place for the longer term.”

She added: “The plan will also confirm the duration, beyond the end of March, of any transition period during which the system will operate – broadly – on the same basis as now.”

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