AS the clock ticked towards midnight, Mary grew more anxious. From her home in Bishopbriggs she had made a last-minute dash to the shops to pick up food for an elderly friend in nearby Springburn. With the lockdown looming she would not be able to visit her pal at home for at least a fortnight. Better get a move on.

But hang on, should she even be making this trip, albeit it was before midnight? She could have met her friend in a cafe the next day, had a meal, and handed over the groceries.

Or they could have gone shopping together in a mall, mixing with hundreds of others. Anything, it seemed, except visiting indoors where things were clean and safe and social distancing was no problem. Why was it all so confusing?

Short answer, Mary: because the Scottish Government is becoming addicted to making a drama out of the coronavirus crisis.

The signs were there at the weekend. Noises off about cases increasing in certain parts of Scotland. Murmured hints of an Aberdeen-style closure of bars, restaurants and cafes. Come Tuesday morning, reports of a surge in cases.

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That evening, just as the early news was starting, it began: crossing live to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, three council areas named, City of Glasgow, East Renfrewshire, West Dunbartonshire, midnight deadline imposed. Plans cancelled, lives upended, confusion reigning once more. Who lives where, who needs what, check those postcodes to find out who has lost the virus lottery this time. A whelk stall run with this kind of efficiency would soon go out of business.

It is not just the illogicality of it all, irritating though that is. If testing increases it stands to reason that the number of positive cases will rise. What matters most, as we were constantly told during the nationwide lockdown, is that these cases do not end up as hospital admissions and place unbearable pressure on the NHS. We are nowhere near that point.

Nor is it the case that Tuesday night’s scramble had to be done to give police the powers they need to break up parties. They had already been handed those last Friday.

Still, any spike in cases cannot be ignored. In this instance, we were told by the First Minister, transmission was mainly happening in people’s homes, during parties, hence the ban on visiting.

In effect, more than 800,000 people have been hit by a sledgehammer of a policy because of a few selfish nuts.

Have no doubt it is a sledgehammer. We have come nowhere near realising what lockdowns have cost society. Day by day the picture becomes clearer. A near doubling in the number of patients dying on waiting lists (381 from April to June, up from an average of 192). The trauma caused by families not being able to visit loved ones in care homes. A crisis in mental health. Domestic abuse on the rise. An epidemic of loneliness. All that before we even get to the impact on education, the economy, and the mounting tally of people losing their jobs. Business is losing confidence just when it needs it most.

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The First Minister, I am sure, appreciates all this. I believe she is acting in what she thinks is the best interests of the country. The decisions, I have no doubt, have been difficult and weighed heavily.

But it helps no-one to have Scotland placed in a state of permanent anxiety and uncertainty, and that is what her Government’s approach is doing. From the daily coronavirus briefings, those “Zooms of Doom”, to midnight deadline lockdowns, people are becoming confused and ever more fearful.

The irony is that the Government’s last line of defence, that it needs to “send a message”, is nonsense because said message is not being heeded by the group breaking the rules. The young people gathering at parties are carrying on regardless. It is older, and more vulnerable people, who take note. They worry more, they become increasingly isolated, and their lives, already difficult, are made just that little bit more miserable.

When unveiling her plans for government on Tuesday, Ms Sturgeon said tackling the pandemic was “our most immediate priority”. That was one reason for the relative lack of new bills.

It should also have been reason enough for Ms Sturgeon to hit the pause button, as she has done before, on her plans for a draft referendum bill. But no such lull is coming, so here we go again.

Yet more drama in the offing. Further make-believe. Westminster will not agree to another referendum, but let us march the troops up to the top of the hill so they can be marched back down again. Let us expend more time, energy, and other resources on this pantomime knowing that it will fail. As long as the base is kept happy, the show must go on.

In the meantime, as we are constantly being told, the virus is still out there, ready to strike as winter approaches.

The Scottish Government is widely held to have coped better than Downing Street during the pandemic, and the First Minister in particular continues to be held in wide regard.

But as time trudges on, and we move from an emergency footing to further into the recovery phase, a different approach is required. One that relies more on initiative and innovation, that searches beyond what was done before. When you look at both Edinburgh and London such fresh thinking seems in increasingly short supply.

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At times one wonders if the political classes realise what is coming down the line, and have the mettle to see us through. How many of these career politicians know the pain and shock of losing a job, or a home? If they did, wouldn’t they be trying harder to come up with better answers than localised, but still widespread, lockdowns? Wouldn’t they try to calm the mood, increase confidence, instead of causing more panic?

The danger here is that the public grows more doubtful of political leadership and stops listening, to the good advice as well as the half-baked kind. Trust, once it begins to ebb, will not return easily. So let’s cut the drama and focus on the real crisis before us.

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