Criticism of Humza Yousaf has reached a ridiculous pitch when even his choice of holiday destination is turned against him.

When it was announced the First Minister had gone to Qatar for a week’s break over mid-term, there were howls of protest in some intemperate quarters. How could he relax – and spend money - in a country with such a poor human rights record, which is also accused of funding terrorists?  

It was all too predictable. From day one in the job, for many Yousaf could do nothing right.

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Moronically dubbed ‘Humza Useless’ after his time as cabinet secretary for health, he was treated as a lame duck: a continuity First Minister doomed to be forever in his predecessor’s shadow, who would send hopes of achieving independence plummeting.

So far, he has wrong-footed his detractors by handling an exceptionally difficult start in office with dignity. With the police investigation into the SNP finances under Nicola Sturgeon he has appeared calm and un-judgemental, giving no hint of impatience or frustration.

Over the war in Gaza he has shown compassion and leadership, without making capital of his own family’s nightmarish situation in the Gaza Strip.

He has diverged from Westminster on major issues – demanding a ceasefire in Gaza from the start - and has introduced a mood of low-key commonsense and decency into the parliament.

A poll done for the Daily Mail last week  - no fan of Independence - showed that, far from presiding over chaos and bringing the SNP to its knees, under his tenure the party is doing far better than doomsters would like us to believe.

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Analysing responses by 18,000 people polled UK-wide, it forecast that, if replicated at the upcoming General Election, north of the border the SNP will return 40 MPs compared with 13 from Labour, 4 LibDems and no Conservatives. The much-trumpeted Labour wipeout of the SNP at Westminster looks decidedly premature.

To be honest, after what he has been through in the recent months,  Yousaf could jet off to North Korea and still be forgiven. Qatar would not be my destination of choice, but then neither would Costa Rica or Cambodia. Norway or Iceland are more to my taste.

When, as a Herald reader pointed out, holidaying in London could be considered as ethically controversial as Qatar, you have to wonder, where can Yousaf – or any national political figurehead for that matter – go on vacation without making headlines?

However, if the First Minister should ever feel the desire to holiday closer to home, he could do a lot worse than the holiday park at Pettycur Bay. Assuming the paparazzi could be kept at arm’s length, that is.  

Stumbling across the BBC series Life on the Bay the other evening, to my surprise I was hooked. Not what you would call high-octane viewing, this portrait of a caravan and camping site on a beautiful stretch of beach near Kinghorn in Fife is TV in the slow lane.

The Herald: Pettycur Bay at Kinghorn in FifePettycur Bay at Kinghorn in Fife

How could a discussion of the most popular essentials in the park’s general store manage to hold the attention? And yet somehow it did. So too scenes of blokes on the golf course, or a family throwing an outdoor birthday party, the sun shining as brightly as if they were in – well, Doha.

Should your blood-pressure medication run out, I recommend you watch it. Except when a caravan bursts into flames, it has a deeply relaxing, almost soporific effect. I’ve often passed Pettycur Bay on the train, which runs close to the caravans on their vertiginous slope, and wondered what it would be like to be perched there when it’s stormy. I suppose there’s only one way to find out.  

The programme’s unlikely appeal comes largely from watching people enjoying themselves. Since many arrive without a car, their carbon footprint is minimal, but the attraction of Pettycur Bay, and other such sites throughout the country, is not their environmentally-friendly credentials. Far more important for those waking to a sea view is recharging and relaxing in a lovely location that’s easy and relatively cheap to reach.

Many of us, I suspect, have happy childhood memories of caravans and holiday parks. My family spent a fortnight in a caravan in Selkirk near the River Tweed, one of the best summer breaks I remember; another was in Aberdeen, close by the beach, where photos show us beaming, our cheeks flushed not from sun but the wind.

For the past three decades, one side of my family has taken a caravan every Easter overlooking a spectacular stretch of North Sea coast not far from Beauly. Paddling barefoot might be out of the question at this time of year, but there can be few better playgrounds, first for their own kids, and now their grandchildren.

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Of course I understand the need to seek warmth, which Scotland can never guarantee. Yet, if even a top of the range caravan is not your thing, for the cost of flights and accommodation in, say, the Algarve or the Cote d’Azur, why not stay in a luxurious Scottish spa hotel? What could be nicer when you come in from the rain and cold than a sauna, steam room and heated swimming pool?

At some point in the seventies, the allure of the continent and the Canaries cast seaside resorts, camping and caravanning into the shade. Returning home with a lobster tan became a badge of honour. Thanks to glamping and a resurgent interest in outdoor breaks, not to mention a cost of living crisis, that is gradually changing.

But there is no need to make excuses for taking the low road when it comes to where you go for a break. Quite the reverse. The humbler the set-up the better, both in terms of the ratio of effort and cost to pleasure, and of impact on the planet. That’s without factoring in the benefit to the national economy.

This is not to decry foreign travel, but to suggest we ration it. When packing our suitcases, we should think local as often as global. In the wake of 2022 and 2023, which were the warmest years on record, recalibrating how and where we go on vacation is urgent.

As the world gets hotter, Scotland might soon become a prime holiday destination. Book your caravan now, Mr Yousaf!