THERE’S something chilling about those moments when politicians drop the point-scoring and come together in a show of unity and goodwill.

We saw it a couple of weeks ago, when Scottish Conservative leader Jackson Carlaw stood up in Holyrood and praised the First Minister. 

“Ten years ago, I shadowed Nicola Sturgeon when she led, as health minister, the national response to a previous epidemic, so whatever political differences we might otherwise have—God knows that they are many—I have every confidence in her leading the country’s response to the crisis, at this time,” he said. 

His comments were measured, statesmanlike – and alarming. Nothing screams crisis quite like the Tories and the SNP exchanging warm words in the Scottish Parliament.

We often wish our politicians would put aside their rivalries and work together on the big issues facing society.

But when it actually happens, it’s almost always a sign of calamity and hardship. You end up feeling vaguely nostalgic for the days of carefree mud-slinging.

The coronavirus pandemic has changed politics just like it’s changed everything else. We’re all in this together – with all the dread that phrase evokes. 

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On Wednesday, emergency legislation was rushed through Holyrood in a single day. Only a handful of Bills have been passed with similar haste.

The legislation introduced sweeping changes, including extra protection for hard-pressed tenants and measures to allow for the early release of prisoners.

Plans to suspend the use of juries in serious criminal trials, however, were withdrawn following a massive backlash from opposition parties and the legal profession. 

The U-turn was a reassuring sign that political scrutiny is alive and well, even if dubious moves to curtail Freedom of Information laws were pushed through elsewhere.

The emergency Coronavirus Bill passed unanimously. There was also cross-party acceptance when the roll-out of new benefits was delayed, and other major legislation shelved.

Normal political life has been put on hold. But the problems piling up on the horizon are beginning to take on a horror of their own.

Figures show almost a million people have applied for Universal Credit support in the last fortnight. The Department for Work and Pensions would normally expect 100,000 claims in that time.

Businesses across Scotland and the wider UK are teetering on the brink of collapse, and the unprecedented economic shock caused by coronavirus could have lasting implications.

Many people have already lost their jobs or been put on “furlough”. Others have taken pay cuts.

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Newspapers are among those struggling. Journalists can be hard to feel much sympathy for, I know, but the collapse of the press should frighten anyone who cares about democracy.

A lengthy lockdown, in which people are told to stay at home for months on end, brings all sorts of worries.

Experts have raised concerns over mental health issues, heart problems and the impact of unemployment. There are fears home schooling will widen the gap between rich and poor pupils.

There’s also the prospect of social unrest.

“If we have a lockdown for too long there will be a rebellion against it,” warned Mervyn King, the former governor of the Bank of England.

The current restrictions may be necessary, but if people are stuck at home while losing their jobs and salaries, that might not matter. 

Anger is not an emotion that can easily be reasoned away.

“None of us have dealt with a situation like this before,” Nicola Sturgeon said at a press conference yesterday. “We’re trying to make the best judgements and do the right thing and do it in good faith.”

The mounting problems caused by Covid-19 are so numerous and far-reaching they can be hard to grapple with in any meaningful way. Tackling them will require a huge national effort.

Holyrood will play a crucial role in holding the Scottish Government to account, and must continue to do so even as normal service shuts down. 

Labour MSP Anas Sarwar’s proposals for an emergency coronavirus oversight committee, made up of MSPs from each party, are a good place to start.

Not long before the full lockdown measures came into force, I went on a (socially distanced) walk up Edinburgh’s Calton Hill. 

The view at the top was a helpful antidote to stories of panic-buying and empty supermarket shelves. Cities, in all their sprawling complexity, offer a kind of proof that people are not selfish monsters out for themselves. They are monuments to our interconnected lives, our love of community.

Scotland, like everywhere else, faces enormous challenges. But there is always reason for optimism.

Let’s hope there are more chilling examples of political goodwill in the months ahead.