MANY of us over recent days have felt increasingly uneasy that much of our attention has been sapped by the nauseating spectacle of the unfolding Cummings scandal. Until this morality tale of elitist arrogance began, it was testing and tracing, the lack of hospital equipment, the efficacy of lockdown, and the dreadful and shaming tidal wave of deaths in care homes which dominated the headlines. These were rightly our daily talking points.

Obsessing on the national disgrace that is Dominic Cummings and Boris Johnson has meant deaths go on, and failings fester, unconsidered. We’ve been diverted from the highest moral purpose – keeping our minds fixed on the loss of fellow human beings and the government decisions which were involved in their deaths – to casting our eyes into a gutter of deceit, hypocrisy and selfishness.

This is not to say, however, that the media should have held back on coverage of Cummings – completely the reverse. Without the forensic scrutiny of journalists we’d never know about the double standards to which the rich and powerful hold themselves and us. We can now see that the Cummings scandal isn’t just a moral affront, it’s potentially lethal too. How many people have shrugged their shoulders and said to hell with public health advice in the wake of Cummings’ actions, adopting a ‘if he can do it, so can I’ attitude?

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However, under the cover of such an appalling spectacle many political issues have become distorted at a time when we need clarity of vision and nowhere has that distortion played out more than in Scotland. Cummings has had a unique Caledonian Effect.

Let’s be frank, the squalid behaviour of Cummings and Johnson has thrown a protective cloak around the the SNP government when it comes to failures over coronavirus. Cummings has unwittingly played something of a blinder for the party and its ambitions for independence.

Until the Cummings scandal, most decent minds were concentrated on the SNP government’s dreadful handling of care home deaths. More than 900 elderly hospital patients were sent to homes prior to mandatory testing. Around half of Scotland’s deaths have been in care homes.

Amid the Cummings scandal, Nicola Sturgeon said she found the care home deaths “heartbreaking”. She’s a woman of decency so her emotional response is to be believed. That doesn’t excuse her Government’s failures, however. Yet with Cummings soaking up headlines, scrutiny of the issue shrunk. Pressure on health secretary Jeane Freeman over her mistakes weakened.

We cannot simply accept such failings in Holyrood because there’s a tawdry circus of shame in Westminster that draws attention away. You didn’t need a science degree to know that the elderly were most at risk. However, there was no mandatory testing for all new care home residents in Scotland until April 21.

The Cummings scandal has overshadowed claims that the transfer of elderly patients from the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Glasgow to Gartnavel led to the virus spreading like it was onboard a “cruise ship”. Gartnavel is said to have recorded 81 cases and 25 deaths in a matter of weeks. The buck for this stops at the desk of the health secretary and the First Minister.

Concerns about a possible cover-up by the Scottish Government over an early outbreak of coronavirus in Edinburgh have been eclipsed by the Cummings scandal. Lockdown came too late here – just as it did in England. Testing and tracing have been inadequate. It’s been a catalogue of one failure after another.

From the pandemic’s early days, there wasn’t that much of a substantive difference in policy between Holyrood and Westminster. Increasingly, though, Sturgeon has begun to forge Scotland’s own path but it’s still far from successful. We aren’t New Zealand, that’s for sure.

Set against the Johnson government, anything would look good. Some 82% of Scots think Sturgeon has handled the crisis well. However, comparing pretty bad to bloody useless shouldn’t be the yardstick by which we measure what our governments do for us.

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The SNP are frankly lucky to have this shameless and idiotic government in London in the shape of Cummings and Johnson. But that, sadly, makes the Scottish people less lucky. The failings in Scotland aren’t any less meaningful just because Boris Johnson is a disaster. If Westminster was being run by a competent leader, the SNP’s behaviour would seem significantly more concerning.

The Cummings Effect is also shaping other parties. Some Scottish Tories finally distanced themselves from the UK leadership, with calls for Cummings to go. It simply adds to the notion that the Scottish Tories should strike out alone and leave the UK fold. It also reinforces the perception that the party’s voice here is relatively meaningless.

What have Scottish Labour or the Scottish LibDems done that matters throughout the Cummings scandal? Nothing. What’s the point of Scottish Labour? When it comes to Labour the only story in town is Keir Starmer – the great hope. Nice guy as he may be, Richard Leonard doesn’t cut through – even at a time like this, with Cummings, when a butter knife could cut through if it had the will. The Greens also need to find their voice.

When it comes to independence, Cummings must have an effect on floating voters, and soft No voters. I’m a Yes voter, and I’ve been increasingly disheartened in the direction of travel the independence movement has taken in recent years. The SNP base is beyond ugly, the idea of independence has intellectually stagnated, and independence itself has provided the SNP with a shield to hide bad governance behind as its voters will tolerate any failing as long as talk of independence is thrown out now and again as red meat.

But even jaded Yes voters like me feel a little galvanised now by the Cummings scandal. I may be uneasy with the independence package currently on offer – too many unanswered questions, and the whiff of populism, Scottish exceptionalism and thin-skinned nationalism – but compared to where Westminster is going, I know which option looks more appealing. Westminster has been a corrupt failure for generations, now it’s a sick, cruel joke played on the British people.

This pandemic hasn’t been handled well or adequately by Scotland and its government. Nevertheless, even a dysfunctional Scotland is better than whatever the hell is happening in Westminster.

Our columns are a platform for writers to express their opinions. They do not necessarily represent the views of The Herald.