AS the year’s end approaches, the prospect of some relief is welcome, but should not be mistaken for recovery; that will be an altogether more complex and drawn-out business.

Despite the arrival of vaccines, the virus will remain a threat for months to come; vigilance over the festive season is crucial. Coming to terms with loss will be a traumatic aspect of next year; taking stock and rebuilding will be arduous and painful.

Whatever the mistakes, it understandable that policies were chiefly focused on saving lives, but the damage to jobs, businesses and the economy has no precedent in peacetime.

The level of government support has also been unprecedented but, perhaps inevitably, unequal in application. The gratitude we all properly feel towards frontline and key workers should not obscure the fact that many deemed not to be in those categories have suffered even more, often as a result of government decisions over which they had no control.

The vast majority of public sector workers have at least been secure in their jobs; hundreds of thousands of people in private firms have lost theirs, many in industries such as retail, tourism and hospitality where employment levels will not recover for years, if at all.

Private sector wages and pensions have been cut. Redundancies are already above the numbers seen during the financial crisis. Thirty per cent of private sector workers have been furloughed, and many of those people are already effectively out of a job. It just hasn’t been confirmed yet.

Yet only such firms can create the growth we will all urgently need for recovery. Government, both at Holyrood and Westminster, has yet to grapple with the measures – beyond stop-gap support – needed to avert collapses of the sort that have already hit huge high street chains, small businesses like restaurants and gyms, and individual trades.

The Scottish Government’s £500 payment to all NHS workers was a piece of blatant political chicanery (even without its childish attempt to shame the UK government over tax entirely within Holyrood’s control). A bonus for consultant neurosurgeons secure in their jobs should not be a priority while supermarket workers on minimum wage are given no assurances.

They have also been on the frontline, but face grim uncertainty. Since it is they and others in the private sector on whom we depend for our future recovery, ministers must finally start paying attention to their needs.

We must hope that the vaccines, and the UK Government’s work in speeding their approval and securing supplies of them, turn out to be the wonderful news that has been claimed. It may even be that, for once, we have done better than other countries in this area.

But only if they can be efficiently delivered, something that neither the Scottish Government’s poor record on testing and care homes nor Westminster’s shambolic communication on their constantly changing, and often apparently illogical, rules suggest is guaranteed.

Getting to this point is certainly not evidence of British exceptionalism, a vindication of Brexit, or an excuse for numerous other shortcomings, and it is idiotic to make such claims. Worse, it raises suspicions – for which there is otherwise no evidence – that these announcements have been rushed to provide political cover for the Westminster government.

That would malign the scientists who have done so much to get us to this point. The UK Government can justly declare its pride in them, and their professionalism, without making patently silly additional claims or extravagant, premature promises.

If this is one thing that it turns out government has handled well, proof will come with delivery. It is already clear that global supply-chains are complicated. The logistics of delivery will be an enormous task. The time to attribute success to any particular factors will be when success has been achieved.

Whether politicians or policies deserve credit for building on the scientists’ achievements, by delivering an effective roll-out of treatment, is a judgment to be reserved for a long time yet.