BEING told that restrictions on our freedoms will continue for a long time to come shouldn’t have felt like a relief, but it was.

It’s the hope that gets you. It can sneak into your consciousness before you have time to kill it with realism. In the days before Nicola Sturgeon laid out the Scottish Government’s framework for easing lockdown, there was speculation that schools in England could be re-opened as early as May. Michael Gove was forced to deny the reports. Nicola Sturgeon was keen to avoid similar confusion in Scotland. She had promised frankness and on Thursday, that’s what we got.

Her commitment to treat the Scottish public like “the grown-ups you are” won plaudits from the most unlikely of people, including Iain Duncan Smith and former chancellor George Osborne. Yesterday, The Times front page read “Scotland outflanks Westminster with demands for ‘grown-up’ conversation about easing lockdown”.

In some ways, this is unsurprising. Nicola Sturgeon is a skilled communicator. She is an agile politician and able to adapt her style to suit her audience. She is as comfortable explaining the facts and figures to journalists as she is explaining to Scottish children why they can’t see their granny.

When, in a recent radio interview, she said that there have been occasions when she has been brought to tears during this crisis, it was an admission that demonstrated her strength as a leader, not weakness.

In the absence of a vaccine, our best weapon against coronavirus is the public doing what politicians have asked of them. Communication is everything. This goes some way to explaining why we are seeing outlets such as Sky News cut live to Nicola Sturgeon’s press conferences, giving her words a prominence that leaders of other devolved governments rarely get.

During the daily briefing on Thursday, the First Minister was asked by the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg whether the UK Government was treating the public as “children” for its own reluctance to set out its thinking about how lockdown restrictions will eventually be lifted. Juicy bait indeed, but one that Nicola Sturgeon refused to gobble up. She said that she could only speak for her own Government.

Nicola Sturgeon has thus far avoided the temptation to use her new-found clout with the UK media as an opportunity to bash the Tories for the sake of it. Journalists have tried – and failed – to tease out a headline-grabbing dig at the UK Government.

Given that the Scottish coronavirus strategy has been largely in line with the approach taken at Westminster, it has been interesting to contrast the praise for Nicola Sturgeon’s leadership with the negative headlines we’ve seen for the UK Government over the last week. And while issues around the procurement and distribution of PPE might be more severe in England, Scotland has had its own problems.

It’s always better to under-promise and over-deliver and that’s the approach the Scottish Government has taken. There were no outlandish targets around testing to come back to bite them, as they have Matt Hancock. Nicola Sturgeon has hammered home the message that in these uncertain times, her Government will make mistakes and so will she. Our strategy will evolve with the science and circumstances. She’s said plainly that this is the biggest challenge she has faced as First Minister.

Nicola Sturgeon refused to take the bait when encouraged to criticise the Conservatives

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From the glowing reviews in yesterday’s papers, it’s clear that even her critics are impressed.

Over at Chequers, Boris Johnson is still recuperating from the virus.

I wonder what he makes of all the praise being heaped on his Scottish counterpart. At the very least, he must surely feel a pang of annoyance. Nervousness too, perhaps.

The goodwill – and outright fawning – we saw from some commentators when the Prime Minister fell ill is beginning to wane. He may have been their Churchill a few weeks ago, but the longer the UK Government looks rudderless the more he risks becoming their Mr Bean.

The daily updates on the severity of the Prime Minister’s condition have been replaced with explosive claims about his inaction and indifference early in the crisis.

In his absence we’ve seen more of Dominic Raab and Matt Hancock. Neither are in any danger of outshining the Prime Minister, but neither inspire much confidence either. Raab continues to look unsettled by his new responsibilities and increasingly out of his depth. Hancock, despite being praised for his initial handling of the crisis, is flagging. On the same day Nicola Sturgeon was delivering her much-praised statement, Hancock was at the Downing Street podium, stumbling over his words and looking as though he hasn’t quite recovered from his own battle with the virus.

We know Boris Johnson likes to be the brightest star in every room and on every podium.

He may see the negative coverage of his Government and slide a bit further under the covers, reluctant to emerge until he has some good news to announce. Or, as I suspect, he may look at the column inches the First Minister has garnered for her stateswoman-like approach and be itching to get back to work.

I hope so. I hope he has watched Nicola Sturgeon’s handling of the crisis and feels determined to get back in the media’s good books. I hope that when he is fully recovered and back in Downing Street, he exhibits the seriousness and sense of public duty that has been lacking throughout his political career.

If it takes a bit of healthy rivalry and competitive spirit to get the Prime Minister working to full capacity, then so be it.