NICOLA Sturgeon has told us, starkly but calmly, that this is not a drill. That we need to make changes to our day-to-day lives and that no-one can say with any certainty when we’ll be able to go back to normal.

Perhaps, in between updating the nation, she could have a word with MSPs about modifying their own behaviour a little more.

Watching the BBC’s coverage of First Minister’s Questions yesterday, I was surprised to see how little had changed. A packed chamber listened to the proceedings, which were once again free of the adversarial point-scoring that traditionally characterises such sessions. Then, as the session concluded and political editor Brian Taylor began his analysis, as he does every Thursday, MSPs could be seen descending the stairs behind him, as they also do every Thursday.

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When they emerged many were walking together, leaning in to chat, and turning left at the foot of the stairs towards the Garden Lobby’s coffee shop and canteen, as many also do of a Thursday. Dozens of them, heading towards the same small catering space.

The National:

The official advice to people in Scotland – and particularly those over 70 or otherwise vulnerable – is to avoid “smaller gatherings such as restaurants, pubs, bars, clubs, cinemas and gyms”. Accordingly, many of these establishments are closing their doors, despite huge uncertainty about when, if ever, they will be able to open them again.

Ordinary people – including those for whom getting out and about is a key part of their recovery from addiction or mental health problems – are making changes to protect themselves and others.

And yet it seems a significant number of our MSPs appear to have fewer qualms about gathering together in their own small space to eat lunch.

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The Scottish Parliament says it has not put in place any formal social distancing measures for its chamber, because desks are already spaced apart. Certainly these seating arrangements are far less of a concern than those in the House of Commons, or on public transport, or in tightly packed workplaces such as call centres.

But this provides little reassurance if our parliamentarians – moments after hearing first-hand about the seriousness of the situation, and the unprecedented steps being taken in response to it – appear to be carrying on as normal, at least within the walls of the Scottish Parliament. Do they believe themselves to be invincible?

The National:

By contrast, reporters at Boris Johnson’s press conferences are moving further and further apart from each other, prompting the Prime Minister to suggest the daily briefings may need to be conducted remotely.

He said: “We may have to find some way of getting them done in a way that doesn’t look to everybody else as though we’re ... we’re somehow not following the advice that we give the public”, and it’s hard to disagree.

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The move might raise concerns that the Prime Minister and his advisers will find it easier to dodge difficult questions if the journalists are not physically present in the same room. However, given that Johnson managed to completely swerve the question he was asked – in person – on Wednesday about his “Operation Last Gasp” comment, this is not a factor that should outweigh the positive benefits.

This is just one of many places of work that needs to adapt, not just to protecting those within them but to demonstrate that social distancing isn’t only for people whose occupations and lives make it a straightforward thing to do.

This re-inforcement of the importance of social distancing was particularly welcome following Wednesday’s tweeted statement from the Prime Minister, which informed us in block capitals that we are going to “BEAT THIS CRISIS”.

The National:

Social distancing was not referenced until the end of the second paragraph, and the statement opened with a long and dispiriting wishlist: “better science, technology, medicine, data, government operations, economic support, learning from other countries and social support”.

Most of us cannot help with the science, or the data, or the government operations, but all of us can personally take measures to slow the spread of the virus.

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There is an understandable need not to cause panic, but there’s a fine line between panic and sufficient concern that a critical mass of people actually do wash their hands thoroughly and regularly – including as soon as they arrive at work or home – and limit their unnecessary contact with other people.

The stark reality is that if enough of us do not voluntarily change our behaviour now, there is at least some possibility that statutory measures will be put in place compelling us to.

Presumably this danger is not being spelled out for fear it will increase stockpiling, but it’s important to consider – as reader Nick Cole of Perthshire highlighted in a letter to The National this week – that empty food shelves may reflect a rational response. The term “panic-buying” implies irrationality, whereas preparing for the possibility of two weeks indoors is arguably entirely sensible.

It may be that Boris Johnson’s grand assertion we can “turn the tide” in 12 weeks is simply a plea dressed up as a prediction: please take these steps, now. It won’t be forever. It’s not ideal. But it is necessary. Right now.