THIS week’s toughening of the restrictions prompted by rising coronavirus infections are a disappointment, but hardly unexpected. The prohibition on household visits and a curb on opening hours for hospitality venues are a significant imposition on personal lives and the economy, but at least not quite a return to comprehensive lockdown.

The change of the seasons, the degree of relaxation, the return of schools and universities and cautious reopening of some businesses, along with the disease’s own natural dynamics, made it predictable, indeed, all but inevitable, that we would see some sort of second wave of the kind that may be beginning now.

It is encouraging that numbers, though rising, remain lower than in the initial stages, that infections are not matched by widespread hospitalisations, that containment is for the moment manageable and that the NHS is much more equipped and ready. Previous Scottish Government action, which we supported, has played some part in creating those conditions, so we accept that these new restrictions, too, should be strictly adhered to if we want to minimise the effects of any new wave.

But questions remain about the balance between public health and the wider economy, and between necessary local lockdowns and blanket restraints on the whole population. The Scottish Government has made much of its right to adopt the best approach for the country (even if variations from the rest of the UK have, contrary to general perceptions, been relatively small); the same logic must apply to the enormous difference in the circumstances of, say, Shetland and Shettleston.

An efficient co-ordinated strategy, which must be the overriding imperative, does not mean a one-size-fits-all approach. In some areas, notably what must be seen as a failure to handle the new university term effectively, more could and should have been done to avoid entirely predictable outcomes.

When much learning was to be conducted online, there must be the suspicion that opening halls of residence had more to do with rental revenues than the best interests of students. The failure to have tested or ensured effective quarantine for thousands of foreign students could have been avoided.

Undergraduates, effectively under house arrest, with the prospect of being unable to return to their families for Christmas, while deprived not only of normal social interaction but the opportunities for part-time jobs on which many depend, are entitled to feel aggrieved that more support and better planning have not been provided for them.

To raise such criticisms is not to undermine the government’s ability to respond effectively to the situation. It is the role, and right, of opposition parties, the press and the public to ask such questions, and expect reasonable, considered answers based on the data. On the whole, the Scottish Government has made a decent fist of the very difficult hand it’s been dealt, but it is too ready to see any inquiry as an affront.

If, for example, pubs – from which students are banned this weekend, with the full force of criminal sanctions – are particular vectors of infection (as the First Minister implies), where is the evidence for this claim? If it exists, let’s see it.

Ms Sturgeon makes much of treating the population as adults, but without greater transparency, that is more rhetoric than reality. The implication that hospitality and other sectors could face total closure is profoundly worrying, but the public, on the evidence of their behaviour so far, will accept it if a convincing justification is produced. We credit Ms Sturgeon, who has an unenviable task, for being a visible presence (unlike Mr Johnson), but she must accept valid criticisms, offer greater clarity and take more urgent action – particularly for divided families, with those in care homes, and now students and those with vulnerable relatives in another household – to retain that support.