WHILE the First Minister’s disappointment was understandable, the effing and blinding came as something of a surprise.

Standing at the podium after a weekend when police had issued 800 dispersal orders to people who had flouted social distancing rules, Nicola Sturgeon was dismayed. “You were f****** telt!” she yelled at the camera, at all of us.

No. Scratch that. Let the record show that this was in fact one of Ms Janey Godley’s very funny voiceover videos. Part of the “Frank, Get the Door” series (says she, beginning to sound like BBC arts editor Will Gompertz reviewing a rap album), this week’s video was up there with Godley’s post-Calderwood skit (former Chief Medical Officer: “I’m pure sorry.”)

In reality, the First Minister began the week with a perfectly polite warning that she would not hesitate to put the new rules into law if people continued to meet in large groups, travel long distances to beauty spots, and so on.

The reaction did not take long to arrive. “Why on earth can’t the SNP treat us like adults?” was one cry, and that was on The Herald’s letters page, a citadel of civilised debate (unless the subject is apostrophes, and then it’s carnage).

As one letter writer put it, “The SNP-led Scottish Government has lectured us for more than a decade about our eating, smoking and drinking habits, all to no avail for the most part. A bloated body of NGOs, third sector organisations and charities in Scotland is testament to this.”

Point taken. Wha’s like Scots when it comes to doing as we please? But is the answer to the problem a different, lighter touch, or should the Scottish Government be as tough on obesity and booze as it is on gatherings of more than eight people?

I thoroughly enjoyed my weekend – or “freedom day” as I heard someone describe it – and I hope you did too, even if it was just having a socially distant tea and a bun with a pal. I have to admit, though, that things did get fairly silly out there. The gulf between how people should behave and how they actually do can be wide and depressing to behold. In this case, one small step away from lockdown translated into one giant leap into misbehaviour by some.

After just one day of good weather there was litter all over and, near me at least, rows of cars badly parked on pavements causing a hazard to the many cyclists weaving in and out (there has been a boom in bike sales but not, apparently, in courses teaching riders the rules of the road). In the words of Jonathan Van Tam, England’s deputy chief medical officer, certain people “tore the pants” out of lockdown easing.

It could just have been the weather and people being relieved to be out and about again. Then again, there is a part of the Scots character, particularly in the west of Scotland, that delights in thumbing its nose, or some such gesture, at authority.

It is there in our history, our culture, a general attitude to life. If it persists as strongly as it has in the past, then Ms Sturgeon and her Government are going to have a problem on their hands enforcing the new rules.

As it is, governments of every stripe have struggled to persuade Scots to do what is good for them. Selections from the latest Scottish Health survey illustrate the point: levels of harmful/hazardous drinking have hardly changed since 2013 (24% in 2018); ditto levels of exercise; only 15% of children have the recommended five fruit and veg a day; two thirds of adults are overweight, including 28% who were obese.

One piece of positive news was on smoking, down from 28% in 2003 to a still too high 19%. When it comes to poor health we have become a bad joke, though there is nothing funny about the pain and misery inflicted on sufferers and those they leave behind.

Again, if the virus-linked backlog of people requiring treatment is as large as figures suggest, more Scots will be living with the effects of ill health for longer. It has always been important to improve the nation’s health and well-being. Now it is a matter of life and death, a decent quality of life versus a miserable existence waiting for treatment.

The past few months of lockdown has been a test of personal and national character. For all that there was some bending of the limits last week, people have by and large been extraordinarily compliant, more so than governments ever thought they would be.

They have kept to the rules despite the bad example set by some of those who set the edicts in the first place.

Let us be honest: some of the grumbling about people breaking the rules is rooted in snobbery. Look at those folk queuing in their cars for fast food, packing into public transport to go to the beach. Tut, tut.

But never forget that the most obvious rule breakers have been those in privileged, prominent positions. It was a chief medical officer who twice travelled to her second home at the height of lockdown. It was a chief adviser to the Prime Minister who went on a 60-mile round trip to a beauty spot to test his eyesight. All good middle class folk with degrees.

The public by and large knows the score on the pandemic and is trying to act accordingly. This is not praise for Boris Johnson’s appeal to “good British common sense” approach. The sensible public know the Prime Minister is a fool who once boasted of shaking hands with coronavirus patients.

They know politicians dropped the ball on testing.

They are only too aware that the NHS was protected at the expense of care homes.

They know that the latest rules on quarantine for travellers, announced yesterday, are too late and will soon be quietly shelved.

Above all, the public knows that governments in Edinburgh and London have been making up their responses as they go along.

As we are forever being told, this is an unprecedented situation, mistakes will be made. That goes for lifting the lockdown, too. As for all the other, generations-old problems, one day at a time, please, and some compassion if you can.