TODAY’S column begins with me going to the pub and drinking Guinness, but bear with me because the pub I visited, and where it is, and the people I was with, all of it does matter. And there’s truth to be found in pubs. Even late on Friday night. Especially late on Friday night. And it raises a big question: what are reasonable people to do about the state of Scotland's government?

Just so you know, I was at the pub for a good reason: it was open, or at least the pub garden was, and it was raucous and controversial like I remember it. A group of Rangers fans were in doing the groundwork for their march on Saturday and were clearly in no mood to be told they shouldn’t be gathering in groups. The landlady of the pub also told me how hard the crisis had been on her and about a face-to-face confrontation she’d had with the First Minister. And in the middle of it all – the chat, the arguing, the noise – was me, looking at my pint of Guinness like it was a miracle.

But let me tell you about one of the friends I was with. She also runs a pub, not far from Hampden, and before Friday she was ordering in food and organising staff and all the rest of it to prepare for opening indoors on Monday. But no: late on Friday, the First Minister said the reopening would be delayed for a week at least. Suddenly, my friend had to cancel her plans and throw food in the bin and tell people she had no work for them, and the pub will lose thousands and the situation is multiplied hundreds of times all over the city.

So I have a few questions. Is it reasonable to change the plans at the 11th hour? Is it reasonable when the pubs have taken all the necessary precautions? Is it reasonable when the data shows the vaccine remains effective against the Indian variant and most vulnerable adults have been vaccinated? It is disproportionate. Is it unreasonable.

Similar issues apply at the pub I was in on Friday. It’s just up the road from Ibrox and near Pollokshields, where the Indian variant has been found, but the pub has all the required procedures in place. The landlady also feels the reopening of businesses is lagging way behind the vaccination programme and that the compensation has been woeful. She told Nicola Sturgeon this when she met her recently. “First Minister,” she said, “could you run a business on £70 a day? Because that’s what I’m expected to do.” The landlady didn’t get an answer. The pubs who’ve been told they must stay shut this week will get 750 quid by the way. It is not enough. It is unreasonable.

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So what about the bunch of Rangers fans who were in the pub on Friday? Some of them had come over from Ireland for the weekend and on Saturday they marched from Ibrox. There’s no doubt it was breaking the virus rules, and in amongst it all there was some criminal violence and vandalism. Humza Yousaf, who the records show is the Scottish Justice Secretary, said the fans were irresponsible. The First Minister also said she was “disgusted by the Rangers fans who rampaged through the city … mid-pandemic, in a city with cases on the rise, it was selfish beyond belief.”

But I have some more questions. Is it reasonable to condemn Rangers fans gathering, but not to condemn the other gatherings that happened at the weekend? How about the protest marches against Israel for example in Aberdeen, Edinburgh and elsewhere? You may have sympathy with the cause; you may not have sympathy with Rangers fans, but the same rules should apply to them both. I think reasonable people would agree with that.

The same problems apply to the SNP response to the immigration protests in Pollokshields. Humza Yousaf didn’t hold back in condemning the Rangers fans, but his response to the Pollokshields incident was entirely different – indeed, the justice secretary appeared to align himself with the crowd. There should be a progressive alliance, he said, to resist the UK’s draconian immigration policies. “Let me be clear,” he said, “the hostile environment created by the UK Government is not welcome here.”

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I have to say I find all of that pretty depressing and I’m sorry (not sorry) to keep using the word but you also have to ask if it’s reasonable. The immigration status of the people targeted by the Home Office was not clear, but wouldn’t it have been reasonable for those speaking for the government of Scotland to ask the crowd in Pollokshields to disperse in line with the rules? And wouldn’t it be reasonable for the justice secretary to uphold the law? And would it be reasonable to assume Mr Yousaf would support the policing of an independent Scotland’s borders and – as every other state does – the exclusion of people who are found to have broken the rules? I’m asking for a friend.

Time and time again, it is this test – the test of reasonableness – that strikes me when I talk to people about the SNP. Many people think it’s unreasonable to keep pubs shut, and to condemn some gatherings and not others, and to propose a referendum in the near future. And yet pubs are shut, and the Government is condemning some gatherings and not others, and is proposing a referendum. It is also reasonable for people to worry about what will happen to their money and the border with England if Scotland was independent and yet there are no answers to those questions.

So what on earth are reasonable people to do about it all? Given that the SNP has just been re-elected, not much for now. But perhaps there is some hope for the longer term. You may have seen the recent opinion poll by Survation which showed 57% of independence supporters thought the GERS figures were made up by the UK Government to hide Scotland’s true wealth. That is an unreasonable opinion. Worse: it is a wrong opinion. But, if there is another referendum, at least it will be a chance to expose those opinions for what they are. At least it will be a chance for the reasonable people to have their say.

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