CHILDREN painted rainbows and parents hung them in windows. They were enjoyed by those out for their one hour of daily exercise. Spotting and counting them became a fun game to play with the wee ones.

Back then, when Scotland was in full lockdown, those colourful posters were a symbol of hope. Some included messages thanking the NHS and key workers. Others urged kindness and solidarity. On her own glittering creation, my daughter simply wrote: Be happy.’’

The rainbow in our window is faded now; its edges have curled and the sun has bleached the once-bright paint, making it something far less cheerful.

As speculation over another nationwide lockdown grows, it is clear that we will need a lot more than whimsical arts and crafts or thundering claps to lift our spirits this time.

This week, Nicola Sturgeon put Scotland on notice. During the coronavirus briefing on Friday, she warned that cases were rising rapidly and further restrictions may be needed.

In a statement calling on Boris Johnson to convene a COBRA meeting with leaders of the devolved nations, she said: “We know from experience earlier in the year that speed and decisiveness of action is important in the fight against COVID, so the Scottish Government will seek to reach considered decisions as quickly as possible, and I will update as usual through my daily briefings. In meantime, I ask everyone across Scotland to be extra careful.”

In an interview on Sunday Politics Scotland, Scottish Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said of new lockdown restrictions: “We will have an announcement very shortly.’’

As is often the case with the Downing Street communication strategy, a similar message for England was drip-fed through off-the-record briefings to favoured journalists.

When Boris Johnson eventually addressed the rumours, he emphasised 
his reluctance to enforce another lockdown.

“We are now seeing a second wave coming in,” said the Prime Minister. “We’ve seen it in France, in Spain, across Europe. It’s been absolutely inevitable, I’m afraid, that we would see it in this country.

“We want to keep the schools open – that’s going to happen. And we’ll try to keep all parts of the economy open, as far as we possibly can. I don’t think anybody wants to go into a second lockdown.’’

A second full lockdown would not be the unknown quantity that the March version was. But, when it comes to restrictions of freedoms, forewarned is not forearmed.

The isolation and financial uncertainty many experienced during the first lockdown is still keenly felt. The prospect of going through it all again is terrifying for some.

As we saw from the protests in London at the weekend, the sense of solidarity and the idea that, however over-hyped, we are “in this together’’ is beginning to disintegrate.

The conspiracy theories that have peppered our social media feeds for months have taken to the streets.

The suddenness of the first nationwide lockdown was one of the reasons it worked: people stayed home, washed their hands and awaited further instructions.

Among the section of the population represented at the London protests, we see mistrust and misinformation take hold. As new cases rise across the UK, the forthcoming battle – for those people – is not the invisible enemy of coronavirus, but the imposition of what they see as the over-reaching and sinister power of the state.

While it’s easy to sneer at those who are quick to decry the “mainstream media” as fake news and propaganda, all the while believing the legitimacy of conspiracy theories shared on Facebook, it doesn’t really get us very far.

Not every objection to another lockdown is rooted in ignorance. There are legitimate concerns about affordability. The cost to individuals of complying with new restrictions can’t be greater than non-compliance.

The UK Government has thus far resisted calls to extend the furlough scheme, pointing to the huge costs associated with the financial support introduced to help people and businesses during the first lockdown.

We don’t yet know whether the restrictions that are set to be announced this week will be as far-reaching as before or more gradual, an inversion of how they were lifted.

Nor do we know to what extent the UK strategy will align with the one deployed by the Scottish Government.

Whatever decisions are taken, both Ms Sturgeon and Mr Johnson can expect pushback and criticism far more vociferous than they experienced before.

Of course, it’s easy to be an armchair critic and make definitive statements about what should be done when you’re not the one making the real-life decisions, nor responsible for any of the real-life consequences.
Both leaders have an unenviable task ahead of them this week.
The stakes really couldn’t be any higher.