The dust has now settled on a frantic series of evidence sessions, held in Edinburgh last week, for the UK’s Covid 19 Inquiry. It was easy to be sceptical, at the outset of this and its sister inquiry in Scotland, about what was really the point. What would we learn? Are we just spending scarce taxpayers’ money on a pantomime?

We cannot say this now. Last week’s evidence sessions were blistering. Most of the headlines, inevitably, were dominated by the psychodrama surrounding Nicola Sturgeon and her deletion of her WhatsApp messages. Ms Sturgeon, as we heard, was far from the only politician, north and south of the Border, to delete her messages. And we should not be under any illusions about the primary driver for this digital shredding.

One would be forgiven for thinking this is about poor pandemic decision-making laid bare in private messages. This is the wrong conclusion. Those, like me, who have been involved at the heart of party politics will know precisely why these politicians panicked and deleted their messages - it is because those messages were littered with unflattering remarks about their own colleagues. If you think politicians are nasty to their opponents, you should hear what they say about their colleagues.

Nonetheless, the deletion remains important in respect of transparency on the management of Covid. Although we should not consider it unusual or inappropriate that leaders are communicating via WhatsApp (it is the 21st century equivalent of a telephone call or a chat in a dark corner of Parliament), the detail in the messages which were retained was important enough to leave the impression that the country may have benefited from seeing those which were not.

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The Scottish Government has long made, and continues to make, a virtue of Ms Sturgeon’s performance during Covid, juxtaposing it to that of Boris Johnson. That thesis has been on the wane for a while now, but last week’s evidence sessions dealt it a further blow. In reality, the haphazard and panicked decision-making process in London bore a striking resemblance to that taking place in Edinburgh.

In the final analysis, all that was different was Ms Sturgeon’s superior communications skills. The wrapping paper was prettier, but inside the box was the same present.

The WhatsApp scandal, though, is utterly insignificant in the grand scheme of things. The real substance of last week’s evidence sessions came not from Ms Sturgeon, nor her deputy John Swinney, nor Kate Forbes or Michael Gove or Alister Jack.

The most important evidence was that of Professor Mark Woolhouse, the professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh. Professor Woolhouse’s evidence was an excoriating rebuke of the performance of the Scottish Government.

He detailed how the Scottish Government’s "zero Covid" policy was in effect a public relations rather than a public health campaign; an undeliverable fallacy. He said that the Government conveyed an inaccurate impression that the NHS was overwhelmed and urged people not to use hospitals, when in fact hospitals were extremely quiet; he estimated this led to thousands of deaths of people who required non-Covid hospital treatment but felt they should not seek it.

The Herald: Professor Mark Woolhouse giving evidence to the UK Covid InquiryProfessor Mark Woolhouse giving evidence to the UK Covid Inquiry (Image: PA)

Most damningly, Professor Woolhouse said that there was “pretty much zero public health benefit to keeping us indoors”. Of the continued closure of our schools, he said that it “quickly became apparent” that schools were not contributing to any discernible spread of the disease, and that the Scottish Government knew the continued closure of schools “wasn’t necessary and we did it anyway”.

We have spoken a lot, over the last week, about the emotion on show at the inquiry. Consider, for a second, the emotion in homes across Scotland as they learned that they had been prohibited from seeing their families, prohibited from leaving their homes, had their livelihoods put on the line, suffered excruciating consequences for their mental and physical health and witnessed the academic and social decline of their children, all for no good reason. We are entitled to be enraged.

Our Government asked us to pay the ultimate price, without any significant benefit, and, according to Professor Woolhouse, without having made any assessment of the severe harm which would result from lockdown.

We must always remember that this was a choice, made by the UK and Scottish Governments. The same choice was not made across the world. We often laud the Scandinavians, and aim to emulate them. It’s a great shame that we failed to match their leadership, and show their courage, during the pandemic.

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We presented Sweden, for instance, as a Covid "outlier" for deciding that, with no supporting data for lockdown or school closures, they would reject it and instead take a series of more mild mitigation measures. To our governments’ opprobrium, the Swedes decided that closing schools would cause unacceptable damage to children, and because their parents would not be able to work, risk the collapse of the health service and the economy.

The Swedes were not alone. Their neighbours, Denmark, initially closed schools but then, realising it was having no positive impact, reopened them almost immediately, while we in the UK sat at home trying to remember how to do long division at the same time as working and managing the emotions of ourselves and our families.

Sweden’s Covid death rate was around 70 per cent of the UK’s. Denmark’s was less than half. We are entitled to be enraged.

In what we can see as something of a trend, the government-funded part of our public health community behaved in a reactionary and hysterical way, and utterly failed to listen to the calmer, more rational perspective of independent peers like Professor Woolhouse.

The impact continues. Our economy refuses to grow. There remains something of an unspoken lockdown across much of the public sector, with those workers often still at home and occupancy of public workplaces remaining astonishingly low.

Our schools, already well behind European neighbours before the pandemic, are on an accelerated descent, and the children in them form part of a paediatric mental health pandemic which risks overwhelming families and wellbeing services.

The furore over deleted WhatsApp messages will come and go. But the poor decisions of those in charge will live with us for the rest of our lives. We are entitled to be enraged.