By Guy Stenhouse

Up to a point nationalism is desirable . Who can deny that feeling proud of your country or pulling together as one nation in difficult times are good things ? Certainly not me.

The statistics show that Scotland has not in fact done all that well in handling the coronavirus relative to the countries we generally seek to emulate such as Denmark or New Zealand. That seems to matter little because we frame measurement of our performance against the virus solely in relation to England and Boris Johnson, a Prime Minister we find it hard to relate to – one of the few prejudices which still seems to be acceptable.

Through that simplified lens everything looks fine. Steady Nicola has communicated well and – following carefully a few steps behind England – has projected an image of care, calmness and competence which being a follower and having the right accent enables you to do.

Above all our First Minister has created difference – and we seem to be liking it. No matter that the difference is funded by UK cash. No matter either that the economic case for oil-fuelled independence lies in ruins – for now nobody cares.

The dark side of nationalism – of which Nicola Sturgeon is not part – breathes unpleasant life into this sense of difference. We are special, we are not you, you are different, you are the cause of our difficulties, if only we were separate we would be better off. Down the ages many have been fooled by such lies.

A crucial part of this grievance agenda is that at every turn points of dispute are manufactured and then magnified. Poor wee Scotland being done down by Westminster and the Tawrees must be emphasised at every turn. Chip, chip, chip until people start to believe it.

Take, as an example, the posturing of the Scottish Government and the SNP at Westminster about the measures which the UK Government proposes to take to preserve the effectiveness of the UK single market.

As part of the European Union, the UK had given powers, such as the setting of certain standards, to EU bodies. These matters would otherwise have been within the competence of member states – but it made perfect sense for the EU to hold them.

The key single market for Scotland is the UK. As the UK is leaving the EU, the powers which were ceded to the EU because they were relevant to the EU single market come back to the UK. If Scotland were itself part of the EU the Scottish Government would have no problem with these powers remaining with the EU, only when the UK might have them is it apparently a problem, a power grab, an outrage, a betrayal of devolution. This is a ludicrous distortion of reality – these powers should rest with the UK Government because it is the only political authority which has competence over the whole UK single market.

This issue, which seems esoteric and boring, is in fact of huge importance to Scotland. At the moment an English customer does not hesitate to buy goods or services from a Scottish company and that Scottish company knows it can do business freely anywhere in the UK. Doing anything which creates differences in standards between Scotland and England –making it less easy for English customers to buy from Scottish companies – is economic stupidity of the highest order. This stupidity is cloaked in the deception of being done to protect the people of Scotland when it actually does the reverse. If it wants to prosper, Scotland should actively want the standards throughout the UK single market to be the same. Without this we will be poorer – less hospitals, schools and other public services. We should care about that rather than manufacture grievances which serve political ends rather than the people.

Guy Stenhouse is a Scottish financial sector veteran who wrote formerly as Pinstripe