SOMETIMES a story is so big, the issues so important and the behaviour of our leaders so egregious, that it demands a response from The Herald.

Boris Johnson’s Downing Street party is one such example.

An email, sent to as many as 100 people in Downing Street, invited them to “socially distanced drinks in the No 10 garden” on behalf of Mr Johnson’s principal private secretary, Martin Reynolds.

It is understood about 30 people attended the event on 20 May, 2020, including Mr Johnson and his wife Carrie. Mr Johnson admitted he was there and gave a half-hearted apology on Wednesday at a stunned Prime Minister’s Questions.

So should that be the end of it all? Must we wait, as Mr Johnson says, until the report of civil servant Sue Gray into the reports of numerous parties at the heart of British government?

We don’t believe so.

This sorry episode does not hinge on technicalities about what constitutes a “work event”. This was a flagrant breach of the rules while the rest of the population were effectively under house arrest. Unable to attend funerals, or even to work, while those who imposed the rules gathered together to enjoy wine and nibbles. It was rank hypocrisy.

So how should The Herald respond? We take our role as Scotland’s leading national broadsheet seriously and a major part of the role of the Press is to hold power to account. Without journalists investigating reports of outrageous behaviour in Downing Street, this party – and others the evening before Prince Philip’s funeral – would never have come to light. The Fourth Estate may be tarnished but it remains a very real defender of democracy.

When any major story breaks, the Editor takes soundings from his staff. He may speak to the reporters closest to the story, to his politics team, to his news or comment desk. He will ask: how important is this story? Is there a Scottish dimension? What’s likely to happen next? How much space do we give it, what resources to we allocate?

Sometimes, discussions can get heated. In the case of our front page on the Downing Street party, the public interest was so strong that there were few dissenting voices in editorial.

We remain an impartial observer and back no political party or cause, which we think is the correct position for any journalist. We will never become cheerleaders for any party because that is a fundamental dereliction of duty.

We believe that calling for Mr Johnson’s resignation was the only responsible course of action for The Herald. He has clearly breached the ministerial code, and on all the evidence, not for the first time. Worse, he has damaged the country’s collective sense of solidarity as we battle Covid.

So we say again: Go now, Mr Johnson.