THE General Election is just two weeks away, yet three Scottish political parties have not yet even launched their manifestos and on the streets of Britain there is no overt campaigning.

The launch of SNP, Scottish Greens and LibDem election manifestos has been postponed until next week; the Scottish Parliament has cancelled all public meetings for the next two days and everyone — staff, MSPs and the public — must use the same entrance, equipped with airport-style security scanners. Overseeing the whole operation stand two armed police.

It’s a sight Holyrood visitors and cup final fans will have to thole in the wake of the shocking Manchester attack. But Scotland will not be going down the same road as England with army personnel on the streets, despite the raised terror threat. And that is a very, very good thing.

A thousand soldiers have been sent to guard Buckingham Palace and Downing Street amongst a total of five thousand deployed to bolster security at key sites across England since the threat level was raised to “critical”.

But Nicola Sturgeon told MSPs at Holyrood yesterday, that although soldiers had begun patrolling civil nuclear and MOD sites in Scotland, there were no current plans for soldiers to be on the streets.

Why such a different outlook in Scotland? Well, according to the First Minister, there is no intelligence suggesting a current threat in Scotland. And it may be just as simple as that.

Yet some politicians would almost instinctively feel the need to respond to the current general state of alarm by matching or even outdoing Theresa May’s preferred solution. In the wake of so much suffering, alarm and with the likelihood that the bomb-maker is still at large, it could seem churlish and insensitive to even question the need for increased security across the whole UK.

And yet the Scottish Government have just done so — and they are absolutely right to.

First of all, it’s a question of police numbers. Last year Police Scotland was given the cash to put new officers through firearms training, so skills exist within the force. The police budget was also protected so the Scottish force has adequate if not fulsome numbers. In England though, tens of thousands of police posts have been lost through cuts. That’s partly why the army has been drafted in.

But there may be a second big reason behind the different police strategy in Scotland.

Does the presence of visibly armed officers on city streets actually improve security and reduce the likelihood of attacks or is that better tackled by improved intelligence?

Do soldiers on streets reduce the chance that an attack would be as lethal as Monday night’s Manchester Arena suicide bombing or just make the public feel safer?

Decades of extremely visible armed policing in Northern Ireland did very little to reassure either community there.

After a brief period of welcome, British troops found themselves in the middle of a dangerous political dance — acting as the “boots on the ground” for an absent but all controlling British state and therefore mistrusted, resented and attacked by the Republican community they were sent to protect.

As a 12-year-old living in relatively safe, leafy East Belfast, the presence of troops and guns at traffic lights and roadblocks was always unnerving. Passing armed men with guns slung across their chests while sitting in passing jeeps, it was hard not to involuntarily swerve or stiffen as the trajectory of their unfired bullets momentarily crossed your path.

But what does that matter if an actual threat is being contained?

The difficulty of course is that we’ll never know, so it comes down to a matter of trust — trust between citizens and their government(s). And that is in short supply right now.

Not just because at least half the Scots electorate are mightily suspicious of Theresa May but because British governments have form.

The current use of soldiers in public places is the first since Tony Blair’s deployment of tanks at Heathrow Airport just before the Iraq War in 2003.

He faced strong criticism for creating undue panic.

Now of course it’s easy to be wise in hindsight — even easier to suspect now that the discredited Blair government was as inventive in discovering threats to Heathrow as it was detecting non-existent weapons of mass destruction.

But back in 2003, there had just been actual plane hijackings during the 9/11 attacks and failure to deploy troops would have been regarded as criminally negligent if anything had happened on British soil.

But then as now the cry for “something to be done” doesn’t justify the kneejerk transformation of public space into a patrolled battleground.

A former senior detective told me he worried about militarising streets and suggesting to the Scottish public that we are fighting a war in our own backyard.

He pointed out that security services are mounting constant anti-terrorism operations, with a suspect lifted almost every day — so logically there’s a case for having soldiers on the streets all the time, if you start to go down that line of argument.

Of course it feels a bit wrong to point out these north-south discrepancies. All are agreed that no-one should try to make political points out of the appalling human tragedy still unfolding around Manchester. But politics can cover the distribution of power in society as well as the calculation of petty party advantage. And whilst the latter is rightly relegated at the moment, the former really matters.

We have to hope no-one is playing politics with the deployment of armed forces in the wake of the Manchester attacks, though there is no real way of ever knowing.

But surely it’s better to make force proportionate to perceived threat? Highland Green MSP John Finnie, a former police officer and a staunch critic of the way Police Scotland handled the armed officers controversy in 2014, warned there shouldn’t be a “kneejerk reaction” in the wake of the recent Westminster attack.

He said then: “What makes the world safer is removing conflict but the stark reality is you can’t cover for every eventuality. What you do is assess risk and put mechanisms in place to deal with it.

He was right then – and the First Minister was right yesterday when she told MSPs: “We want life to continue as normal, we do not want life to grind to a halt.”

We should be grateful to have a political leader who means what she says.