DAVID Mundell is confused. It doesn’t take much, does it?

He’s confused by the fact that people in Scotland are being advised to cover their faces where social distancing is difficult to maintain, but those south of the Border are not (or at least not yet). This is especially confusing given that, according to Mr Mundell, there is no border between Scotland and the rest of the UK, which presumably means that at any given time he can’t be entirely sure which country he is in.

He seems to be aware that London is south of the Border, noting that if he travels to the English capital he won’t have to cover his face. What he fails to grasp is that he doesn’t “have to” in Scotland either, as there’s a difference between issuing guidance and announcing rules.

I could advise the erstwhile Scottish Secretary not to travel to London during lockdown, as I’m sure once he gets his broadband connection sorted he can make his vital contribution from the comfort of his home in Moffat. But he would not be compelled to take my advice. I could suggest he think carefully about whether members of the public really need to be exposed to his emissions, but he would retain the right to keep wasting his own breath and everyone else’s time with his inane questions.

No-one has been told they must wrap a scarf around their face in order to gain admission to Asda – it’s merely being recommended. It is a way to slightly reduce the chance of the wearer passing on to others a virus they don’t realise they are carrying. People are being asked to make their own judgments about whether to cover their faces in particular settings, such as busy shops and public transport. This is an understandably difficult notion for the Tories, who struggle with the concept of devolved decision-making and are currently focused on covering their own arses.

It’s odd, isn’t it, that personal responsibility is so important to the Conservatives when it comes to folk being in employment, making healthy life choices and leaving the benefits safety net for the “deserving poor”, but the idea of someone making a personal judgement about face-coverings is one big bamboozling step too far.

It’s also strange that they should be resistant to the idea of piloting a “test, trace and isolate” approach on Scottish islands, given the historical enthusiasm for Scottish pilot schemes. A cynic might suggest they are interested in deviating from a “four nations” approach when it disadvantages Scots (by, say, requiring them to pay a regressive new tax), but much less keen when it brings them benefits (such as being able to leave the house for non-essential purposes).

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Nicola Sturgeon is – of course – damned if she does and damned if she doesn’t. She’s criticised by some for going along with a UK-wide approach (even when she has little choice due to relevant powers being reserved), then criticised by others for using devolved powers to do things differently, or even just giving slightly different advice.

Those who have spent weeks repeating the mantra “follow the science” are only too quick to cite hunches about human behaviour as solid evidence that the First Minister has made a mistake. Some claim she was tying to embarrass the Westminster government by beating them to the punch on face-coverings, while simultaneously suggesting her advice was flawed (in which case there would have been nothing for Johnson and co to be embarrassed about – quite the contrary).

Even the most straightforward of interviews and press briefings by the First Minister seem to trigger a rash of dramatic headlines relating to things she didn’t actually say, and her patience seems to be wearing understandably thin. Confirmation that she lacks the power to close the Border was taken as evidence of a “ridiculous” or “madcap” plan to do so, while ITV’s Peter MacMahon got short shrift when he suggested that people crossing back and forth from Scotland to England (for essential purposes, of course) might struggle to understand these are two different countries, even after more than two decades of devolution. “Are you reporting on confusion, or are you actually helping to cause confusion?” the FM shot back.

One wonders if these political reporters have heard one Janey Godley voiceover too many, then assigned themselves the task of badgering Sturgeon with so many silly questions that eventually she will tell them what she really thinks, before storming off the set to tuck into a tuna salad.

There are, of course, plenty of important questions to be asking, but it seems some reporters have lost interest in boring old topics like vital PPE for care home workers or test-and-trace technology. Who wants to go on and on about that stuff when there’s a chance to make constitutional mischief? Clearly, any attempt to save Scottish lives must be a nationalist plot, a cunning strategy to generate positive headlines for the ruling party. It’s ingenious, really – I wonder why the UK Government didn’t think of it.

It might not suit David Mundell to believe it, but Scotland is in fact a country, defined by a border, whose geography differs from that of England and Wales. It makes little sense to claim your party leaders are being led by science then suggest your rivals are playing politics when the science leads in a direction you don’t like. But we’ve established that geography isn’t Mundell’s strong suit, haven’t we? And that he is very easily confused.