I hope that, whatever crises I may face, whatever provocation is put in my way, I will tackle the problem with grace and dignity, just like Ian Blackford. At first, I thought Mr Blackford’s behaviour over an Englishman who lives in Scotland was aggressive, intolerant and embarrassing. But no. I am told by the First Minister that Mr Blackford displayed grace and dignity. So humble apologies to Mr Blackford. I was wrong.

I also hope that, in future, I will be more understanding of the measures that are needed to beat the virus. At first, I thought an elderly woman being dragged into a police van by several officers this week for protesting against lockdown was an affront to liberty and the right to protest. But no. I am told by people on Twitter that only nutjobs question the restrictions and we must go along with them. Maybe I was wrong about that too.

But could I offer an alternative explanation for all of this and why we have mass coercion and unpleasant, strident enforcers like Ian Blackford? I’d also like to predict where it might take us and the future it might be bringing about. Or rather, I’d like to tell you about the grim future that has already been predicted for us.

It’s all there in the superb dystopian book A Very Private Life. It’s written by Michael Frayn, who’s known for his comedies, but A Very Private Life is science-fiction and, like a lot of the best science fiction, it spots a trend or danger in society and imagines where it might take us, like Atwood did in The Handmaid’s Tale with religion or Bradbury did in Fahrenheit 451 with the power of words.

The trend Frayn identifies in A Very Private Life is concern about infection or contamination. His book is set in an unspecified future in which we all live in houses with no windows because if a house has windows it can be “contaminated by the stale, untampered air of the forest, laden with dust and disease”.

The main character, a young girl, is terrified by stories of how things used to be. Her father tells her that people used to gather together in the same places, brushing up against each and breathing in each other’s faces. “In those days,” he says, “people used to breathe in disease with every breath.” Her father also tells her what had to be done to control the situation: “The most stringent order had to be imposed on people, just so they could survive their proximity.”

Now, I’m not suggesting – and neither is Michael Frayn – that this terrible future is going to come to pass in exactly the way he describes, but the trends he identifies are worth worrying about. Action had to be taken on coronavirus, but even before it happened, there was a growing obsession about contamination – “kills 99.9% of germs” – and the idea that our society is going to “snap back” in the spring is misguided. The urge – the demand – to wear a mask is likely to re-occur. Some people may even suggest it as a preventative measure. Just wear a mask.

If this happens and we become even more obsessed with contamination – and that’s surely going to be a consequence of the pandemic – then there are other effects Frayn warns about. In A Very Private Life, it is the rich who withdraw into their safe rooms, leaving the poor outside to fend for themselves, and it’s already happening here: it is the poorest communities in the UK who have been hit hardest by the pandemic.

You do not need to be a writer like Frayn to see this. I recommend the Cambridge Freshfields Law Lecture, delivered by the great Jonathan Sumption last month. The British state, said Lord Sumption, has exercised coercive powers on a scale never before attempted. “Fear has always been the most potent instrument of the authoritarian state,” he said. “Fear provokes strident demands for abrasive action… it promotes intolerant conformism.”

Which brings us back to Ian Blackford. That’s what Mr Blackford was doing when he sent a tweet demanding to know whether an English photographer had a right to be in Scotland. Even when Mr Blackford apologised, he wasn’t being graceful or dignified. He was being an intolerant conformist. It was nasty, and lots of people have been doing it.

Lord Sumption put it this way: “The use of political power as an instrument of mass coercion,” he said, “is corrosive”. The corrosion is already happening. It can eat away at the system and it can eat away at you. So, could we stop it, and call it out when it happens? Could we stop it before it changes our future?