IT is, in truth, rather a long time since my courting days. By deliberately deploying such an archaic term, which I would not remotely have used in my eager youth, I am reminding myself of the passage of years.

However, I imagine it is still a challenge for the party of the first part to approach the party of the second part in order to suggest a liaison or dalliance. In short, a night out.

That problem just got bigger, given the new rules regarding Covid passports, due to come into force in Scotland next week.

Now, contemplating a nightclub, you should apparently murmur to your intended: “Fancy going with me to a venue which is open between midnight and 0500, serving alcohol and which has a designated area for dancing and provides live or recorded music for this purpose?”

Read more from Brian Taylor: Why do the SNP hesitate to impose tighter restrictions? The public won’t stand for it

Not exactly the stuff of romance, is it? Scarcely “what light through yonder window breaks?” Forget “till a’ the seas gang dry?”

I sympathise with Team Sturgeon on this. They are genuinely trying to add a new weapon to the armoury ranged against Covid. What Nicola Sturgeon called “proportionate and targeted measures”.

Again, genuinely, they hope that vaccine passports or registration will accelerate the take up of inoculation, particularly among the young.

However, they have mishandled the introduction of this plan from the outset. Implementation has been precipitous and rushed, the precise object unclear, the full detail as yet unpublished, the doubts all too obvious.

Giving evidence to a Holyrood committee, sundry human rights experts suggested that the case for the new scheme had yet to be articulated. Few would disagree. A legal challenge has now been launched.

More broadly, there is a palpable absence of public compliance. Elected governments cannot operate without consent. They gain power through a qualified public declaration of support. Such is well understood.

However, they must also wield that power with public acquiescence. They must consult and explain.

Think of the ban on smoking in public places. I well recall the expectation of widespread defiance. However, the measure was introduced slowly and with concomitant explanation. It worked.

It might reasonably be argued that the Covid crisis limited the time available. But that is no excuse for a flawed scheme. The general rule still applies. Elected governments must bring the people with them.

Otherwise, they risk prompting popular defiance. They risk exposing the limits of their own efficacy. The people may eventually notice that the Emperor lacks outdoor gear.

Nicola Sturgeon and her Ministers were previously sceptical about the idea of insisting upon proof of double vaccination when one enters a nightclub or joins the crowd at a large sporting or public event.

They were eventually convinced, on balance, that such a move might drive vaccine uptake among those who are currently resistant or neglectful or both.

However, the First Minister’s underlying doubts plainly persist. When introducing the scheme, she urged venues to use “common sense” in implementation. Spot checks, perhaps.

In itself, this might be thought eminently sensible. However, it might also be said to amount to surrender in advance. Common sense would perhaps suggest that, given the degree of disquiet in football and the night-time industry, there will be minimal enforcement of this new measure.

Read more from Brian Taylor: Nicola Sturgeon is thinking long – but will the voters give her short shrift?

The First Minister already faced the hurdle of intrinsic scepticism about the merits and practicality of the scheme. Two other obstacles swiftly arose.

One, public morale. As Ms Sturgeon has repeatedly noted, folk are sick fed up of continuing constraints.

Arguably, that has now ascended to a higher level. Folk want this over. They hear inchoate talk of the virus being largely subdued, in the UK, by the spring.

Ministers and scientific advisers, like Jason Leitch, anxiously remind us of two points: that we have a potentially tough winter to surmount and that, globally, the virus is very far from being in retreat.

We listen but we do not completely hear. Ennui and exasperation muffle our understanding.

The second added hurdle for the FM is the stance of the UK Government. They were up for Covid passports. Until they changed their minds.

No government operates in a vacuum and, on this island of nations, people will inevitably draw comparative lessons from what is happening elsewhere. Scots will wonder why they have to endure something which has been dumped in England.

Then there are broader points. What is the purpose of statute law? It is not simply to constrain the rights of the individual. Rather, it is to protect the wider public from the consequences of an individual exercising liberty.

There is no such thing as absolute liberty. It is interlinked. Freedom for the mongoose means death for the snake.

We ban people from driving without insurance in order to protect other vehicle owners. Ditto speed limits.

Defending the public interest can generate controversy. Witness this week’s announcement that the police can now issue warnings to people possessing Class A drugs.

Is that a limp response to a supposedly serious breach of the law? Or is it a practical recognition that the wider objective of lessening public harm is best achieved by weaning users off narcotics and thus removing their need to steal from others to feed their habit?

Down the centuries, from Plato to the present day, thinkers have wrestled with the concept of consent to governance. The medieval Scottish theologian Duns Scotus had a tentative go.

Much later, David Hume noted that the duty of allegiance to government arose from “utility”, or the broader public good. This notion was later amplified by Bentham, Mill and the Utilitarians.

It is virtually impossible to get unanimous consent to a proposal advanced by government. The best one can hope for is the “greatest happiness of the greatest number”, the principle of utility.

Even there, one must take care. There is a danger that one interest group may gain unwarranted sway by voluble expression of their demands, to the exclusion of others.

It is a question of balance. Nicola Sturgeon has repeatedly stated that her actions are not designed to court popularity. However, she knows that she must sustain consent: she must cajole and persuade. Common sense, really.