Sometimes a Government does something so crass they instantly expose themselves as grubby and dishonourable, manipulating the people whose interests they are paid to look after – us. Sometimes the thing which exposes them is big and sometimes it is small – this time for the SNP Government in Scotland it is £500.

Everything about the £500 bonus for hospital and care workers which Nicola Sturgeon announced – and the policy came from her own mouth and cannot be blamed on Boris Johnson – is wrong. Where it was announced, who is getting it, why it is being paid and when, the crude political trap set for the UK Government, the machinations when that trap caught the First Minister’s own leg.

Over what pillow or breakfast table was this wheeze thought up? Give £500 to all health and care workers, announce it at the party conference so everybody realises it is really a vote SNP voucher and challenge the nasty Tawrees to pay the tax on it – which they won’t and then will look evil and we will look great – hurrah. Wrong, wrong at every level.

First, where it was announced. Not in the Scottish Parliament but as part of the SNP party conference. The First Minister and her party chairman husband are already stretching the bounds of credibility about what they didn’t discuss and can’t remember regarding allegations of sexual misconduct on the part of Alex Salmond. Have they learned nothing? A bonus for those who have worked hard in an extraordinarily difficult year announced by the relevant minister in Parliament looks like Government policy. The same announcement by Nicola Sturgeon at her party conference and therefore clearly in the role of party leader not First Minister looks like a political bribe.

The second thing that’s wrong is the mis-targeting of what is a significant – well over £100 million – amount of money. A £500 reward for the nurse who has battled in intensive care to save lives or the exhausted and grossly underpaid care worker seems rather inadequate but much of the NHS has done less in 2020 than 2019. Why was the special reward not focused on those who have had to make special effort to give them a meaningful amount?

The most offensive part of the not-so-clever plan was to throw the gauntlet down to the UK Government to make sure the payment was free of tax. In fact, because tax paid by Scottish taxpayers is revenue for the Scottish Government it is the latter which could gross up the bonus payment so that the amount paid after tax is £500 – at nil net cost to the Scottish Government and requiring nothing to be done by the UK Government. This cheap tactic, to cast the Scottish Government as generous and the UK Government as mean was shabby on the part of the SNP. Not only is it misguided in itself but it exposes by example the SNP’s repeated fabrication that it does not have the powers or the means to do things. This isn’t true – it controls our education, health and transport – though without distinction in any one. Amongst the taxes within its control is income tax. The Scottish Government takes credit when it does not deserve it and deflects blame when it should not. Our businesses and citizens deserve integrity from our devolved Government not a never-ending search to find things to quarrel with the UK Government about.

Finally, and pathetically, the twisting and turning when SNP high command realised their carefully crafted scheme wasn’t so clever politically after all. Oh, we wouldn’t get the tax back on the payment for three years - so what? Ah , but don’t forget National Insurance which will be taken and kept by the wicked Tawree Treasury – there’s a clue in the name; insurance for the nation, the UK nation which has borrowed the money and spread it fairly throughout the United Kingdom to pay the bills in the Covid-19 pandemic.

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