We are in the foothills of an election campaign for the Scottish Parliament. This is a particularly dangerous time in policy terms because loopy ideas which should never see the light of day are considered, tried out on focus groups and, if the reaction is positive, are chucked into the manifesto to garner a few more votes.

The SNP Government, whose general incompetence on anything to do with wealth generation and management of the economy is lamentable, is at the game already.

The SNP is the party which didn’t deliver on its promise to reduce air passenger duty but did manage to waste tens of millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money on Prestwick Airport, BiFab and the Ferguson Ferry Fiasco. This is the party which promised to create a nationally owned electricity supply company to stop the people of Scotland being ripped off by the existing operators – only to discover that there was no such rip-off and, in a welcome development, let that lemon of an idea run into the sand.

The latest scheme clearly wafting into manifesto consideration is the nationalisation of the private care home sector in Scotland. Having got away with mismanagement for over a decade, the SNP administration has been rescued from being judged on its poor record on the economy and education by the Covid-19 pandemic. Scotland preferred Nicola Sturgeon to Boris Johnson anyway and now that she speaks to us day after day we have learned that she is an excellent leader doing a great job – despite the lack of evidence to support that view.

So a new policy which focuses on healthcare and conjures up images of enthusiastic workers, qualified in every possible way, well paid, enjoying good working conditions and with enough time to keep every older person in the land as happy as can be, is just spot on. Even better – no evil person makes a profit any more. Except of course that’s not how it would be.

What nationalising the private care home sector would do is create an inefficient state-run monopoly which would be a great disservice to the people of Scotland.

Monopolies have one great flaw which alone makes them undesirable – they take away choice. There are no customers who can look at what is on offer from competing providers and make their own decision – instead you get what you are given, what the well-meaning bureaucracy decides is good for you.

Not only can you not choose but you often don’t know how good the care your relative would receive will be because you don’t have the facts to make comparisons, statistics dry up or are “managed”.

All of what the Government should want – high-quality care and fair treatment of staff – can be provided by the private sector, which has proved time and time again it can deliver those things more efficiently than publicly owned providers. Efficiency matters: without it, the cost to consumers or the taxpayer goes up and eventually service quality goes down.

Private care home providers commit large amounts of capital to their businesses. The profit they make is a return on that capital and reward for providing good-quality services which people want to buy. Spending large amounts of money raised from taxpayers to remove private providers makes no sense. The opposite direction is more sensible.

The Government should set robust, reasonable and clear standards which are consistently applied across all care homes, both public and private. Families should be given a budget which they can choose where to spend to provide the care they think is best for the relative they love. Instead of the state grabbing control of the care industry it should empower families to make choices for themselves and allow them, and not the state, to decide who should provide the care.

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