Comics frequently rely upon catchphrases. Frankie Howerd, “please yourself”. Del Boy excoriating his brother as “you plonker”. Blackadder’s “cunning plan”. Chic Murray and … ok, there are some gloriously eccentric exceptions.

You may not remember Hylda Baker. Her catchphrase was “she knows, y’know.” Not working for you? Perhaps you had to be there.

Anyway, I hesitate to compare the First Minister with a Lancashire comic actor, even a talented one. But there is one similarity. Like Hylda, Nicola Sturgeon knows. Y’know.

She knows she should not have indulged in a mild outburst of exasperation when answering media questions anent vaccine forecasts.

She knows she should have ignored the partly bogus indignation of Opposition parties who noted she had promised maximum uptake when the reality was rather short of that, especially for those aged 40 to 49.

She knows – trust me, she knows – that she should not have advised her critics to use a little intelligence and common sense. Her promise had been to maximise the offer. Without compulsion, 100 per cent uptake could never be guaranteed.

In response, her critics accused her of adopting the aggressive tone of a departed US President. In truth, this transient little controversy owes more to Trumpton than Trump. More trumpery than trump card.

Enough, Brian. Cease and desist. Nicola Sturgeon knows she should have chosen her earlier words more carefully. However, she also knows that being in elected office has the edge on being in opposition.

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To be blunt, it is remarkable that the FM has been able to stay, mostly, cool. She has had to work night and day for months, addressing endless iterations of a hideous plague which refuses to relent. The weary plyter of constant, repetitive endeavour.

En passant, she has fought and won a Scottish Parliamentary election, while shrugging off the unsolicited offers of advice and assistance, delivered in public by her predecessor as FM and party leader.

She has coached herself to stay calm. The younger Ms Sturgeon, apparently, felt conditioned to emulate tough, masculine behaviour. Irrationally, what was seen in a man as strength transmuted for a woman into a reputation as a “nippy sweetie”. She has learned and adapted.

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However, glancing ahead, there are one or two issues on the horizon which may further challenge that hard-won reputation for sangfroid.

Most immediately, we have yet to subdue Covid. For now, it remains a potent threat. We have simply to believe that it will subside, conquered by vaccination. That this too will pass. Eventually.

The infection may, for example, mutate into variants which are still transmissible, but less virulent. Ending not with a bang, but a whimper.

We will then move on to the Covid public inquiry. As yet, we do not know the precise formulation of the inquiry; in particular, whether there will be a separate Scottish investigation or, as seems more likely, a Scottish dimension to a pan-UK effort.

Either way, this will pose problems for the UK and Scottish Governments, for Boris Johnson and Nicola Sturgeon. The FM may hope to come out relatively well when her endeavours, notably in communication, are compared with Downing Street.

But it will still test her resolve. My expectation, however, is that timing will assist both leaders; that the public will be so relieved, by then, to have consigned lockdown to the past that they will be willing to forgive the mistakes which were undoubtedly made on both sides of the border. Maybe.

Then, beyond the Covid crisis, there are the seemingly permanent problems besetting Scotland. Not the least of which is the grim mortality rate associated with the misuse of drugs. In 2020, no fewer than 1,339 souls succumbed, once again the worst rate in Europe.

Nicola Sturgeon knows she needs to address this urgently while remaining aware of two facts; that it is exceptionally challenging and that some of the deaths are slow, lingering affairs, driven by entrenched past behaviour and thus even harder to address.

There is the health service, under extra pressure because of Covid. Education, where Scotland, collectively, requires to provide a response to critical comments from the OECD. The environment, where she wants to cut carbon emissions without wrecking the North Sea oil industry.

Finally, two over-arching issues. Nicola Sturgeon requires to perform an elegant gavotte with regard to independence. When Coronavirus is finally subdued, she will return to her demand that the UK Government should accede to a further referendum on independence.

The gavotte? She needs to make a concomitant calculation as to the point in time at which she might win such a plebiscite, rather then mount a defiant gesture. She needs to persuade the PM. Simultaneously, she needs to placate those in the independence movement who complain of slow progress.

The other issue is money, public spending. Not the daily decisions but rather a fundamental threat to her devolved budget. A threat which is presently just a spot on the horizon but which will loom larger as months pass.

Yes, the fiscal framework is back – and this time it’s structural. Five years ago, John Swinney struck a deal with the Treasury over the allocation of revenues between the two governments, designed to cope with Holyrood’s new tax powers.

It was said at the time that Mr Swinney had avoided a multi-billion pound reduction in Scotland’s longer-term budget. However, I can do no better than refer to an insightful blog, written by the then political editor of BBC Scotland, which commended Mr Swinney for his bargaining but noted that the problem had been deferred, not resolved.

Now that deferral is nearly up. An independent scrutiny of the framework is in progress, prior to the full review next year.

Sources tell me that the Treasury is determined to restrict the scope of that review to basic arithmetic, seeking to revisit the concessions made last time. It is what Treasury officials do, it is part of their charm.

Scottish officials want a broader exercise, incorporating such issues as the volatility of revenues and social security spending.

Either way, this is shaping up to be another tough, inter-governmental battle. Nicola Sturgeon is only too well aware of that. She knows, y’know.

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