WE SHOULD all take pride in the success of the UK's COVID-19 vaccination programme.

We are one of the most highly vaccinated populations in the world and it is clear that this is saving lives.

We have severely weakened the link between the number of cases and the number of people who are in hospital or who have sadly died. And while we have seen a large third wave of cases, it has not been matched by the number of hospitalisations and deaths.

This just goes to show that vaccines work.

The UK Government had the foresight to secure tens of millions of doses of different vaccines to build up one of the biggest armouries of coronavirus vaccines in the world.

This has allowed our fantastic NHS staff assisted by volunteers and the UK armed forces to ensure that everyone can have both doses as quickly as possible.

But the uptake remains lower among younger people who while less likely to get severely ill with the coronavirus, can still pass it on. I would encourage those under 40 who have not already done so to get their first dose.

Despite this success, cases continued to be on the rise in Scotland until last week. At one point, six of the top ten coronavirus hotspots in the whole of Europe were in Scotland.

This is despite Scotland still having more restrictive coronavirus rules than in England. This could well be down to the failings with the Scottish Government's Test & Protect system.

Just a few weeks ago, the average number of contacts made for each positive case was just three people and health boards indicated they did not have the resources to trace all contacts. These problems urgently need to be addressed.

But the longer many restrictions remain in place, the more problems we create in other areas.

Our pupils' learning has been repeatedly disrupted with whole classes having to self-isolate. The backlog of waiting lists in our hospitals continues to grow.

Our businesses remain unable to plan for the future. And the limits on social interaction continue to harm people's mental health. We need some certainty from the Scottish Government on the way ahead.

Last week, the prime minister set out his approach to reopening in England, which will see almost all legal restrictions lifted on July 19.

By the time you read this, the Scottish Government should also have set out its own plans on Tuesday July 13.

The Scottish Conservatives pushed for Holyrood to be recalled for this announcement rather than for it to be done through the first minister's preferred method of a television broadcast.

This is extremely important as it will allow members of the Scottish Parliament to ask questions of the Scottish Government about their plans on your behalf. Too often, the current Holyrood administration are all too eager to dodge parliamentary scrutiny.

Overall, the amazing vaccination programme gives us grounds for real hope, but if we are to reap the rewards of this collective effort, we urgently need greater clarity from the Scottish Government on our route back to normality.