LAST August, when eight Aberdeen players had a rather expensive night on the town and Celtic’s Boli Bolingoli had his doolally daytrip to Spain, Scottish football was placed on a yellow card by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

Here in this column, I wrote that it was just a matter of time therefore before the game was given an early bath if football was to be held responsible for individual transgressions. There is more chance now of Celtic pegging back Rangers at the top of the Premiership than there was then of no further lapses on the part of players across the country, and while that part of the prediction has played out as expected, it appears the First Minister is a surprisingly lenient official.

Given speaking to footballers is part of my daily routine, I know from experience that the vast majority of them are decent, sensible people, often much smarter than they are given credit for and often doing much more for their local communities than might be publicly known.

My own family has had cause recently to raise funds for my son to receive medical treatment, and players who I do not know personally have quietly donated huge sums on the provision that their identities remain secret. So, from personal experience, I know that the demonisation of footballers – fuelled by the First Minister’s public ‘exasperation’ with them – is wildly wide of the mark.

Like any other walk of life though, there are a percentage of them who - to be frank - fall into the category of ‘daft laddies’. Though it may be giving the five Rangers players who have now been caught attending a house party huge benefit of the doubt to categorise them as such, particularly 28-year-old Bongani Zungu.

However you want to label his actions, and those of Ibrox youngsters Calvin Bassey, Nathan Patterson, Dapo Mebude and Brian Kinnear, the fact is that the blame for their recklessness and blatant disregard for their responsibilities lies with each individual, and not with Rangers. And far less Scottish football as a whole.

Predictably, given the tribal tit-for-tat which goes hand-in-hand with football rivalry, there were a great many Celtic supporters who were quick to draw equivalence between the Rangers situation and their own club’s trip to Dubai, which they were publicly caned for. The big difference though is that Rangers didn’t arrange the gathering. It may have been a house party, but it wasn't a 'Big House' party.

The players should be criticised just as Bolingoli was, and they will likely be ostracised by their club in much the same way as he was too. Their punishments from the authorities should be consistent with those players who have breached regulations in a similar manner, such as the Aberdeen players or George Edmundson and Jordan Jones, who were playing for Rangers when they too stepped out of line.

Bolingoli left the country and failed to quarantine upon his return, so his situation was slightly different. But it was harsh in my eyes that Celtic had two games postponed as a result of his indiscretions, and similarly, it would harsh on Rangers should they be punished as a result of their players’ irresponsible actions.

In fairness to Celtic supporters, there has been very little talk of points deductions or calls for the season being declared null and void, certainly in a serious vein. As much as it might stick in their craw, on the whole they will admit that this league title was lost in a fair manner on the pitch, with Rangers simply better than Celtic this term over the piece.

Leaving the trip to Dubai aside, what more can our clubs do? They have gone to great lengths and great expense to protect their players, realising the privileged status given to football to continue, and have repeatedly hammered home the message to each individual player that with their great privilege, comes a great responsibility.

It isn’t easy for young footballers, many of them away from their homes and families, to deal with the loneliness and boredom that living up to these standards often creates. But this in no way excuses their actions. This current way of life is hard for everyone, so there will understandably be no violins playing when players so brazenly abuse their privilege.

The Rangers manager Steven Gerrard must be tearing his hair out. His team stands weeks away from a landmark title victory, one of the biggest and most meaningful in Rangers history, and while it doesn’t appear as though the five miscreants have blown it for them, the fact they placed the achievement in any kind of jeopardy at all must be infuriating for him. And for supporters.

But these indiscretions were not on club time. They were not the club’s responsibility. And that is why in all these cases, Nicola Sturgeon has been right to keep her red card in her pocket.