THE catastrophic models and fears about Covid-19 appear more than a little wide of the mark. But even if they had proven accurate it is worth bearing in mind that science is always filtered through the prevailing political and cultural mood of the times.

In this regard it is worth noting the rise of what Labour MP Frank Field called the “politics of behaviour” in 2003 – something then-Labour minister Tessa Jowell described as, “one of the most fascinating challenges facing the government”.

The politics of behaviour reflected a more distant and distrusting relationship that had developed between the public and politicians and that continues to influence policy makers. Rather than engage with people as thinking, intelligent citizens, with big political ideals and arguments, this micro-politics focused on the minutiae of everyday life and attempted, as the name suggests, to change our behaviour.

More akin to a relationship between a parent and child rather than between political representatives and citizens, the politics of behaviour promotes policies, with the help of “experts”, that attempt to “nudge” us here and there, to ensure we “behave responsibly”.

The newer assemblies, the Scottish Parliament being a leading example, have adopted the politics of behaviour with a particular zeal, attempting through a variety of new laws, taxes and initiatives, to regulate how we smoke, drink, talk, and even how we raise our children.

The distrusting and infantilising nature of the politics of behaviour helps to explain some of the more patronising and irrational policies adopted during the lockdown and also helps to explain why Scotland is more backwards when it comes to freeing up society.

What is called an “enabling state” finds the idea of free individuals who “act”, rather than merely “behaving” difficult to comprehend. Consequently, we continue to be given simplistic slogans and irrational micro managerial instructions about what to do once we dare to leave our homes.

With this in mind, it is worth reminding the First Minister, our political representative, of that Ancient Greek phrase primus inter pares – it means First Among Equals. We have given you the privilege of being First, now start treating us as equals.

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