First observation: it’s been nice and sunny out there and Dominic Cummings is still in his job so lots of people have pretty much stopped listening to the official advice and are making their own judgments on the risk of coronavirus, leaving poor Jason Leitch, the Scottish Government’s clinical director, to carry on talking impotently about “phase one” in those terrible whiny TV ads.

Second observation: people with different party political views are reacting to the lockdown restrictions in different ways. You may have noticed this among your friends and family; I certainly have among mine. Generally, Scottish nationalists and those on the left are pretty keen on lockdown while unionists and those who lean to the right are much less keen. I have a theory about why this might be so.

But first: the evidence for the nationalist/unionist, left/right divide. A YouGov poll showed 61 per cent of Tory voters in the UK welcomed Boris Johnson’s announcement about the easing of some restrictions on May 10 compared to 32% of Labour voters. Interestingly, there is a similar divide in the US: Gallup showed recently that 48% of Republicans had worn a face mask in the past week compared to 75% of Democrats.

This pattern is likely to be repeated, I think, across Scotland’s unionist/nationalist divide on the basis that Tory voters are much less likely to be supporters of Scottish independence and nationalists are more likely to have left-wing views. I have certainly observed it among my friends: those that are most keen on Nicola Sturgeon and least keen on Boris Johnson are most reluctant to come out of lockdown and most likely to wear a mask. For some of them, lockdown is starting to look like some kind of natural state.

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So why is this happening? Some of you may say it’s because Tories are more selfish and care less about doing their bit for society, but that makes no sense. People who push against lockdown are self-evidently putting themselves at increased risk; therefore they cannot simply be thinking selfishly about their own interests. There must be something else that explains it.

The theory I’ve formed, just so you know, is not based on the extremes of right and left. The hardline libertarian protesters in the US, for example, who see any government action, even action for their own good, as a breach of their rights. Or the hard left in the UK who seem relaxed about government debt and people staying at home on government-subsidised wages. Or even the rag-tag of protesters who turned up at Glasgow Green recently to expound their theory that the whole thing is being caused by phone masts. These are the extremes.

However, away from the extremes, even people in the more reasonable middle ground appear to come to opinions on lockdown based on deeper beliefs about the role of Government and, in the case of unionists and Scottish nationalists, the role of the UK Government. You could see it, for instance, in the way some unionists first reacted to the crisis. Their message was that the whole of the UK was in this together; they may also have hoped that Yes/No switherers might start to see the benefits of collective policies across the UK.

It’s interesting too that Nicola Sturgeon, while not overtly buying into the UK working together on the virus, downplayed her usual emphasis on differences between Scotland and the rest of the UK, probably because she judged, quite rightly, that it would sound wrong at a time of national crisis. I’ll give her that: her political antenna is well tuned.

But many supporters of independence have been quite different. They have squirmed over the united UK idea and raged against the UK Government’s relaxation of lockdown in England (even though the Scottish Government introduced similar measures a little while later). It’s part of a narrative that seeks to emphasise difference with the rest of the UK and play down similarities. There were also some – at the extreme end admittedly – who called for the England/Scotland border to be policed even though the differences are tiny and the whole of the UK has eased lockdown at pretty much the same rate.

On the whole, this is how the coronavirus experience has worked. The more left-wing and/or supportive of independence you are, the keener you’ll be on lockdown, and policing it hard. Some of this is for traditional reasons: those on the left prefer a big state and, under coronavirus, it’s never been bigger. They may also instinctively like the element of control and coercion that’s involved in imposing the lockdown. Isn’t it funny that in Scotland it’s those on the left, not the right, who seem to relish most a leader dictating to us from a podium?

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Some of these factors are also at play among SNP supporters although the recent history of the party plays a role too. The SNP has been extraordinarily good at getting their members and supporters to stick to a uniform message (for the sake of the bigger cause) and the conformity has now become instinctual on any issue, including coronavirus. Government, party, country and self have all become conflated and they will praise Sturgeon and criticise Johnson even when they’re saying broadly similar things.

But most important of all is the idea, which nationalists love, of a kind of Scottish gestalt, a collective identity and value system, for which, naturally, the First Minister is the appointed spokesperson. The obvious thing to say to all of that is that there’s no such thing – there is no Scottish identity or value system – but perhaps nationalists love lockdown because it bolsters the illusion that there is. Suddenly, all Scottish people are broadly behaving in the same way for the same reasons. Suddenly, there really is an “us”. And what goes with an “us”? A “them” of course.

This is only a theory naturally, but it’s based on real differences between nationalists and unionists and left-wingers and right-wingers; it’s also based on how humans behave. We all have a set of instinctual values that work at a deep, unconscious level, and we view each new experience or issue, such as coronavirus, according to those values and try to make it all fit together. Coronavirus doesn’t recognise political affiliations or national borders. But opinions on coronavirus are formed by people who do.

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