By Guy Stenhouse

It has become clear to me that Nicola Sturgeon and I are moved to tears by different things.

Our First Minister was reported as being close to tears when she saw crowds of families on Portobello beach on a sunny day and disorderly queues of young people outside pubs. All I saw was people having a happy time out – and good luck to them.

What moves me nearer to tears is seeing the latest statistics for cancer referrals and treatment, reduced numbers of operations for those in chronic pain and much of the NHS working at a fraction of its capability. I feel sad when I see a business shut, people out of work, town centres hollowed out, education curtailed, life chances reduced.

I get the fact that Covid-19 is an issue and we should take sensible precautions but what we have done is out of all proportion to the scale of the threat.

Adjusted for the larger UK population today, roughly the same number of people have died of Covid-19 as died in the flu epidemic of 1968 and, on the same basis, not much more than 10% of the number who died in the 1918 flu pandemic.

In April 2020, the peak month for Covid-19 deaths, a total of 7,958 deaths were recorded from all causes in Scotland. In each of January 2000 and January 2018 more than 7,500 people died in bad “ordinary” flu seasons. The blunt truth is the scale of deaths from Covid-19, even at its peak, is not as extraordinary as Project Fear would have us believe.

Now the gap between reality and hysteria is even more marked. In October last year an average of 168 people died a day from all causes in Scotland. In the seven days leading up to the First Minster’s latest tightening of restrictions an average of less than three people a day died of coronavirus and most of those will have had some other serious underlying health problem.

What on earth are we doing?

The thing that moves me closest to tears – of rage – is the monumental misuse of resources which our political masters are allowing because of Covid-19. This is bad at the UK level but worse in Scotland – where we are “protected” from Covid-19 to an even more daft extent.

Every now and again a nation has to shoulder a huge burden in order to achieve something worthwhile. Stopping the rogue state of revolutionary France in the early 19th century and an aggressive Germany in the 20th century are examples. The economic and social sacrifice was justified – now it is not.

What is so distressing is what we could have done with the money we have spent on overreacting to Covid-19. Hundreds of billions of pounds have been expended and the ability of our economy to produce the jobs and pay for the public services we all want reduced for years to come. Just think what we could have achieved with that money if we had spent it wisely – on world-class cancer services, an NHS where nobody has to wait in pain, good and free education for all, social services for the elderly we could be proud of rather than ashamed about, improved digital and physical infrastructure, major steps towards combating climate change. We could have achieved all of these but now each one of them is harder. That is what we should cry about.

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