IT would be difficult not to be moved by much of this week’s coverage of the Scottish Government’s first steps towards a new loneliness strategy.

By coincidence or design, the Conservative government also announced a new “minister for loneliness”.

This is a response a recommendation from the Jo Cox Foundation, set up to honour the murdered Labour politician’s commitment to the issue.

After listening to experiences of isolation from the elderly or the marginalised, or dwelling on the decency of Ms Cox (and the sheer alienation of her killer), I’m sure I wasn’t the only one to follow the folksy advice being offered.

Make your “five-a-day” also mean “five meaningful conversations” in a day. Be “happy to chat”. And, most importantly, phone your Mum (I did).

This display of the better angels of our nature, embodied by the quietly powerful welfare minister Jeane Freeman, cheered me up considerably about the practice of politics. But as the prospectus was laid out, in all its hustle and bustle of initiative and enterprises, I sensed a bigger picture lurking behind the immediate project.

If we’re starting to make “loneliness” a policy priority, maybe we’re witnessing the beginnings of one of the great societal shifts that futurists have been predicting for the last decade or so. Perhaps we will begin to increase the value and importance of relationships and care, as automation of all kinds demotes human routine, and replaces our machine-like labours.

A general crisis of human work is starting to break over us. And, as often reported in this column, the trends are pretty implacable. If so, we need big new stories about ourselves to hold on to. Ones that give humans a distinctive purpose – something qualitatively different than the machines bring.

And the primary thing we clearly have over them (though for how long, who knows?) is consciousness, memory, experience, emotion. A body and heart that throbs and aches, that glows to a kindly touch or word. A care ethic as important as our work (or play) ethic.

If this becomes what we primarily value – because production has become secondary to humans, and the price has fallen out of our robot-produced commodities – then something like “the problem of loneliness” could stand as one of our great new collective goals.

But I hope we can reach for original solutions to such a problem. Ones that recognise how complex modern people are, and don’t just try to restore an imagined “better days”.

In serving the systems of production that have brought them wealth and surplus (or at least a portion of it), human beings have always been hammered together into functional groups.

If you’re at the sharp, working end of these systems, “solidarity” is often the name given to the feeling you have with your fellows, as you occupy your narrow slot in the division of labour.

When minds turn nostalgic in the face of contemporary loneliness, they often go back to this “solidarity”. People living together in working neighbourhoods, mutually supportive when resources were short, “in and out of each other’s houses”.

One suspects that the Corbyn Labourites, in their dreams of freeing themselves from the EU in order to plan a new industrial economy, imagine a return to this solidarity. The sadness and isolation of the age would be fixed at source. Great and grand work projects (environmental, infrastructural and highly-skilled) would bring people out of their houses, wrapped up in each other’s lives again.

I have a serious caveat here. Do we so easily return from our modern “fluidity” to the old “solidarities”? Is the appetite for choosing rather than inheriting one’s relationships, for scratching the itch to move rather than suppressing it, to be entirely laid at the feet of neoliberalism?

But these fluid lifestyles – what the late Polish sociologist Zygmunt Bauman called “liquid modernity” – enable more than just the sharp and entrepreneurial. They also enable the freedom to create entirely new (or maybe new-old) social relationships.

We know this from our online lives – which can find us perfect peers from across the world, as much as it isolates us on a commute, or alone in our rooms. But in the loneliness literature this week, I was particularly struck by schemes that proposed co-living arrangements between young people and the elderly.

This is a practical arrangement. It delivers accessible housing for the students and those in early/freelance careers. It also installs a generally watchful eye for the conditions and health of pensioners. But there’s also the possibility of real social advance here.

Isn’t an acute gulf between the generations, in experience and world-view, exactly what cripples and polarises much of our politics at the moment – whether it’s Scottish independence, Brexit or Trump – and promises much worse tensions in the future?

However, this cross-generational co-living, if actively shaped and nurtured, could be a real bridge over the gulf.

I noted something specific about Jeane Freeman’s presentations the other day. Positive terms – like “kindness”, or a “connected Scotland” – were pushed to the front of her discourses on loneliness. This is indeed a huge creative opportunity for the nation.

Consider our recently renewed commitment to arts and culture in everyday lives. Or the increasing empowerment of communities over their land and localities. Or the pursuit of a self-consciously “sustainable” and innovation-oriented economy.

Add these all together, and it looks as if Scotland is rehearsing how to cope with the rest of this post-work, climate-changed century.

However, an ambitious Scottish Government, as currently empowered, faces dangers. Without a grip on our political economy at a national level – usually known as “independence” – much of the reforming, indeed futuristic zeal of the Scottish Government could easily seem like interference in people’s lives. The temptation to steer and nudge towards a desired behaviour change, with the partial tools at your disposal, is often great.

Better that this behaviour should emerge and blossom upwards, from a much more equal (and equally resourced) society. One in which government is a conversation partner – and not a scold.

If this implies a mutual maturity in the relationship between citizen and state, the indicators on that are good. This week’s opinion polls showed that a majority of Scots approved of the recent Holyrood tax rises. Here is a populace demonstrating the patience for what it might take to make long-term change possible.

Yet we are still so far from joining up all our dots. Isn’t an emphasis on a “kinder, more connected” Scotland a powerful argument for both a shorter working week and a universal basic income – policies which could open up the space and time for Scots to genuinely turn towards each other? And what powers of government might deliver that?

Addressing loneliness is the Scottish Government in its most impressive, caring mode. But the need for statehood still lurks behind all such ambitions.