Vaccine firm Valneva's finance chief clocked at 108mph as he raced from Highlands to Edinburgh

A top executive with a company making a Covid-19 vaccine at its West Lothian laboratories kept his driving licence despite speeding at almost twice the limit in the Highlands – because senior Westminster politicians were visiting his work.

Pedal to the metal...Valneva finance chief David Lawrence
Pedal to the metal...Valneva finance chief David Lawrence

Solicitor advocate John Keenan tendered a plea of guilty for his client, David Lawrence 57, who is employed by Valneva, at Inverness Sheriff Court.

Valneva SE is a French biotech company headquartered in Saint-Herblain, France, developing and commercializing vaccines for infectious diseases.

It has manufacturing sites in Livingston, Solna in Sweden and Vienna in Austria, with other offices in France, Canada and the United States.

Mr Lawrence was speeding ahead of a meeting with Alok Sharma at Valneva's Livingston labs

Lawrence, of Ormidale Terrace, Edinburgh was the chief financial officer and announced his retirement a month after the offence.

However he agreed to stay on until early 2021 until a successor was found.

Lawrence admitted driving on the A832 at Achanalt on August 2, 2020 at 108mph. The national speed limit on that stretch of road is 60mph.

It is understood that Lawrence put his foot down as he hurried home ahead of a meeting with Scottish Secretary Alister Jack and Alok Sharma, who was Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and is now full-time President for the COP 26 climate change summit.

Fiscal depute Rowena Carlton told Sheriff Margaret Neilson that weather conditions were good, the road was dry and traffic was light when police detected him driving at excessive speed.

Mr Keenan told the court that Lawrence "played a significant role in negotiations between the government and his company regarding the manufacture of the vaccine.

He added: "This offence in August coincided with an intense time for him. He had arranged a family break hill walking in Torridon. But he had to return to Edinburgh urgently to deal with the visit of a senior government official to his company's site.

"He felt under pressure and was rushing more than he should have done. He has a clean driving licence and this offence is out of character.

"I am asking the court not to disqualify him although the speed is significant. There are three factors here - traffic was light, the weather was good, the road was dry."

Sheriff Neilson decided against a driving ban, endorsed Lawrence's licence with six penalty points and fined him £1040.

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