FOR the last couple of weeks, all our attention has been focused on coping with the coronavirus crisis. It seems to me we have done quite well in putting every precaution in place and reducing the impact of the contagion on Scotland, compared to other countries.

So much so, that the more far-sighted pundits are already asking how we are going to get out of this mess. At some unknown future point the number of new cases will start to level off and then, we hope, fall. If not, then we really are faced with a threat to civilisation.

Since 1945, shocks to capitalism have usually been sharp but temporary, and to do with political causes such as wars and oil prices. Once the climax blows over, we find most things stay the same for the obvious reason that most things do as a matter of fact always stay the same. The sun also rises: families still need to be clothed and fed, pleasures have to be paid for, mortgages or rents must be financed.

This is why modern recessions have normally been V-shaped. At the start, there is a steep plunge in output and employment. The rise out of recession is equally steep. Before long, the economy is rattling along much as before, perhaps even faster. This is because of the “creative destruction” I wrote about recently. The hard times weed out companies or even industries that were anyway approaching the end of their useful lives, so that the capital and labour tied up in them can be released for more productive purposes.

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Only socialism, of the sort practised in the UK as recently as the 1970s, seeks to hold up this process, by keeping capital and labour exactly where they were before. In those days, it was a formula for national stagnation and failure. All the same, it was one of the chief impulses behind the election manifesto we got last December from Jeremy Corbyn, a man of the 1970s if ever there was one. It prompted Nicola Sturgeon to follow suit in the hope she might be able to enter into some sort of pact with him, assuring her of indyref2.

Ah, you may say, but isn’t the huge emergency package assembled by Chancellor Rishi Sunak again something of much the same kind? Indeed it is. It has left Corbyn and Sturgeon looking if anything rather timid. It might even appear to turn the Tory party into something like the Labour Party, with consequences that in the long term the Tory party may regret.

I would say two things in answer. The first is that nobody regards the measures now in force as desirable in themselves. We have lockdown because there is no choice, or so they tell us. Already we can make out signs of lockdown fatigue, and in a month’s time the public mood may be more rebellious than it is just now.

Most of us want to get back to normal as soon as we possibly can. Our impatience will grow, tempered only by lingering fear of infection.

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Secondly, I see no compelling moral context to this crisis – like, say, in 1945, when people felt they deserved a social reward for six years of wartime suffering and sacrifice. The welfare state followed.

The last decade or so of UK history has not been exactly a joyride, but to call it a decade of suffering and sacrifice would be going a bit far. At the outset, we actually became a more equal society, because the initial impact of economic crisis fell on the more prosperous citizens through the drop in stock markets, that is, in the value of their investments. The gap has widened again since, but most of us have got along grousing and grumbling.

A bigger issue is whether, after all this is over, we will in fact return to what at the turn of 2020 we had regarded as normal. We don’t know, because at the moment there are so many questions we can’t answer. Will coronavirus be a recurrent threat, as some medical experts believe, afflicting us every year till there is a cure readily available to millions?

Will there be permanent economic consequences? Already the leisure industry has been flattened, and there can be no guarantee it will bounce back to the place it had taken in Scottish life, urban and rural. In retail, why go out to a shopping centre, where the heating may be full of germs, when you can order everything online?

The same with commerce, where it will be preferable to work from home rather than go into an office and meet too many colleagues face to face. What about football matches, when the cough you hear behind your shoulder may land you in hospital?

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It is not even a year since the First Minister pronounced at an international event in Edinburgh that she had chosen the watchword of wellness for the rest of her term of office. Luckily for her, there are unlikely to be many more such international events in Edinburgh (or Glasgow). She will be spared the discomfiture of confessing that actually the watchword is going to be not wellness but sickness.

Regular readers will already know I harbour deep suspicions of this Scottish Government and its motives. I believe Nicola chose to focus on wellness because by an otherwise globally acceptable criterion – I’m talking about Gross Domestic Product – the performance of her government has been dismal.

It has not even delivered the least of its stated intentions and matched the GDP of the UK. And it has the appalling habit of stopping particular measurements when it doesn’t like the results they yield. Let me also be clear that I do not level this accusation at Scottish governments in general but only at this Scottish government in particular. I hope we will soon get a new one.

Despite its inability to hit targets in health or education, this government is still convinced of its omnipotence in all areas of policy. It believes, for example, that it can mould the Scottish economy to fit its desire not for economic growth but for political correctness.

In the public sector that may be so (though not yet), but in the private sector we have a yardstick for estimating how closely the desire matches what companies see as their own best interests. For the last five years, they have been invited to sign a Scottish Business Pledge, by which they undertake to conform to the Government’s aims. Number of businesses in Scotland: 350,000. Number of signatories to the pledge: 743.

If this outlook was ill-matched to the world before the coronavirus crisis, it is going to be even more so afterwards. All governments anyway have a bad habit of letting their conduct be guided too much by the accumulated experience of the past.

It is natural enough because official policies need to be backed by the evidence to meet scrutiny, and the past is the only place the evidence can come from. That is why we have Nicola Sturgeon essentially advocating the programme of Harold Wilson. And look what happened to that.

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If there is to be any economic upside to the crisis, it will come in a new generation of entrepreneurs who either adapt fast enough to the changed working conditions

I touched on above or else, after a year or two, will have launched working lives with those conditions as the defining parameters. The economic world moves faster and faster, not slower and slower. I only hope this nimble generation will find its place in lumbering Scotland.

Scotland in lockdown. Shops are closing and newspaper sales are falling fast. It’s no exaggeration to say that the future of The National is at stake. Please consider supporting us through this with a digital subscription from just £2 for 2 months by following this link: Thanks – and stay safe.