HERE’S an interesting idea, minister. What do you think about having a giant beer garden in Scotland’s biggest city so can folk can watch football that’s on regular telly anyway?

Well, it’s not grabbing me.

Ah, but not only that, minister. We do it days after Glasgow exits a level 3 lockdown, with a highly transmissible Covid variant on the rise everywhere. 

You’re really not selling this.

Over 1000 new cases yesterday, a quarter in Glasgow, highest level since February, minister. It would be a real blue sky move to do it against that backdrop, a great twist.

But surely we can’t have this...

This fanzone, minister. But it would only be a few thousand people.

A few thousand?!

Six, since you ask, for 31 days straight, starting tomorrow.

Have you been drinking?

No, that’s tomorrow. Two daily shifts of three thousand people, the first around four hours, the second around five. Just enough time for a sociable shandy, minister.

Although, the way the ticketing works, people could snag back-to-back shifts and have two.

But two whole shandies, in a giant beer garden, at the height of summer, after months of lockdown, watching the national side’s first major tournament in 23 years, it’s not likely, is it, minister? Over-indulgence. I mean, what could possibly go wrong?

But couldn’t people just watch at home, or on their phones in the park?

Well, they could, but best not mention it. Commitments. Sponsors. Plus Jason Leitch says it’s a goer and he’s (looks at heavens) connected.  

I’m still sceptical. Will it be seated?

The fanzone will be “largely seated”.

Socially distanced? 

Shandy permitting.

Covid testing? 

Not if you don’t fancy it. 

Why on earth not?

Equality. Ethics. Exclusion. Lots of abstract nouns we never quite explain. 

But won’t the public start raging at this fanzone thing when they’re still subject to far tougher restrictions?

It is possible, minister. But just to make sure, we’re advertising a “festival atmosphere” so fanzoners can “gather and celebrate”, unlike the rest of us.

Good grief.

And for good measure, we’re including  free games of football and tennis so spectators can “take part in a range of sports”, while outside the zone parents are banned from even attending their kids’ sports days. Or nursery graduations. Yeuch.

And this is supposed to endear the Government to voters, is it? 

Respect our leadership, I’d say.

Anything else?

Just the one thing, minister. “Smoking is not permitted at EUFA Euro 2020 Fan Zones.”

Even though it’s in a park?

Well, it’s bad for your health, isn’t it, minister. We don’t approve of that.

It is now blindingly obvious the fan zone due to go live at Glasgow Green tomorrow is a risk to public health. Big crowds, big games, hours of drinking time, and no mandatory testing is like Christmas come early for Covid.  

If such a proposal were put to ministers today, it would be rejected out of hand. It is an absurd event to be holding while the pandemic is as it is.

More than 100,000 are due at the zone in the coming month, meaning lots of extra bodies on public transport and in nearby streets and pubs, and myriad potential chains of infection.

But because the build-up has been so long, it now has a momentum of its own, and public agencies seem too nervous to impose the maximum possible mitigation measures.

As Professor Linda Bauld, chair of public health at Edinburgh University, said yesterday, the Glasgow fanzone should certainly be making a negative Covid test a pre-condition of entry. 

It should follow the lead set in England, where recent big events, including the FA Cup Final, have been part of a Covid research programme, with mandatory testing involved.

But instead of helping in the fight against Covid, the Glasgow fan zone is more likely to aid and abet the enemy.

“It’s definitely not without risk and it’s hard ... to understand the logic,” as Prof Bauld told Radio Scotland.

It’s not just health at risk. The Scottish Government’s standing is too.  

It was the SNP Government which approved the fan zone, and it says it can pull the plug if it all goes wrong.

On Tuesday, Health Secretary Humza Yousaf insisted the event “should be a low-risk one”.

He said “table service” and no spirits should allay concerns about alcohol.

The fan zone was “not about prioritising football over other issues; it is about seeking to cater in as safe a way as possible for fans who want to watch the matches”, he said.

Anyone who thinks a fanzone is “as safe a way as possible” for people to watch football has lost the plot.

Seeking to reassure MSPs, Mr Yousaf said the event would be “monitored on an on-going basis” and “any change that is considered necessary will be made, up to and including withdrawing permission should significant concern arise”.

But would he really deny future ticketholders entry because of what others might do before them? 

Would he really admit the whole thing was a misconceived mistake?

Would he make Nicola Sturgeon look bad by raising questions about her judgment in putting him in charge?

The fan zone is a 31-day gamble. A gamble with health, and therefore a political gamble too. It is already angering voters, whose common sense tells them it is a disproportionate risk for the sake of entertainment.

If it ends up a homegrown mess, that anger will grow, and Ms Sturgeon’s solid pandemic reputation will be over.