AT the critical moment for an easing of coronavirus restrictions, it is reasonable that governments take a last hard look at whether the data suggests it is safe to do so; no one wants to endanger recovery if a minor delay, or some proven safeguarding measure, would improve the chances of achieving it.

The journey to this point could hardly have been said to be precipitate. It is just days since Glaswegians were allowed to meet indoors for the first time in nine months, while the Westminster Government has, in a reversal of policy, placed an effective ban on foreign travel and it is possible that June 21 may not, after all, mark the end of restrictions there.

There is clearly a degree of public fatigue and an overwhelming desire for a return to something close to normality. But perhaps the most remarkable thing about the removal of freedoms to contain the pandemic has been the public’s forbearance – before restrictions were imposed last March, the received wisdom from both public health officials and politicians was that they would not wear such curbs on behaviour.

That compliance rested on widespread acceptance that restrictions were urgent, necessary, proportionate, dictated by the science and temporary. The Scottish Government’s plans to retain its powers until next March, and possibly even September, at a time when hospital admissions and deaths are low and stable and the majority of adults – and the overwhelming majority of those at greatest risk – has been vaccinated does not pass those tests.

John Swinney’s announcement that the Government would rush through this extension of emergency powers before parliament breaks up prevents any proper parliamentary oversight or discussion, especially since the matter could easily be debated – and with months’ more information – before the statutory expiry date. Unlike the U-turn on foreign travel, the scientific justification for it seems highly questionable; Scotland has seen a rise in cases, but not in serious effects, and the test positivity rate has actually fallen.

Then there is the fact that – no matter whether the science suggests the risks are increasing or receding – the rules currently being applied are without any consistency. To allow, indeed encourage, a “fanzone” for 6,000 people without mandatory testing, that promises only “best efforts” on social distancing, while prohibiting publicans from advertising football screenings and demanding stronger measures from them, and reducing the numbers allowed at wedding and funerals, follows no kind of logic.

At this stage in the easing of restrictions, taking into account outdoor transmission and vaccination levels, we do not argue that the fanzone is necessarily reckless. But it does nothing for the wider hospitality industry, which desperately needs support and fair treatment. Instead it is being undermined.

The Government should be looking for ways to restore basic liberties and as much normality as possible; be searching for opportunities to encourage business, transport, social interaction and economic recovery. Instead, it seems to be trying to consolidate and even extend powers that are no longer justified by the circumstances.

The SNP Government is not alone in this reluctance to abandon powers it has accrued; politicians make a habit of it, and the Westminister Government is also guilty. Its claims to be following “data not dates” while following a predetermined timetable without reference to the data, as well as its inconsistent rules about numbers and types of gathering, is no more logical than the approach being taken at Holyrood.

But actually extending restrictions – as the Scottish Government has with its incomprehensible, and frankly cruel, announcement that it wants residents of care homes to wear masks in what are their own homes, something not imposed even at the height of the crisis – is unreasonable and without scientific justification. The presumption has to be that we should be emerging from these costly restrictions in a manner that is fair, and where continuing limits on liberties can be justified. The burden of proof, and the requirement to produce clear policy supported by the facts, lies with government.