THE term “lies, damned lies and statistics” is often wrongly attributed to Benjamin Disraeli and Mark Twain but its true origins may never be known and the deceptive nature of data will carry on regardless. Last week the media across the UK wrestled with statistics in order to shore up or undermine the ideology of the pandemic, not least in the ways that Westminster and the Scottish Government have faced up to the end of lockdown.

Finance Secretary Kate Forbes was singing from the Scottish Government’s hymn book, when she said: “Our path will always be determined by the science, not by politics, not by the constitution, and not by ideology. That’s been our commitment throughout.” Sometimes in the face of inane and malignant press enquiries, Nicola Sturgeon and her troops have held a line on the pandemic – but let us not pretend that ideology, the constitution, the local places we live in and the emotional pull of friends and family are not reverberating in our minds.

Every day I find myself thinking beyond a science that I am not equipped to fully understand, hoping that be statistics will show a light at the end of a very dark tunnel.

But when the shrill voice of the London-based Unionist newspapers went to press in the early hours of Thursday morning, the gloves were off. Almost universally, they united around a set of short-term satisfactions driven by an urgency to kick-start the economy. It was ideology writ large. They had clearly been briefed in advance by Downing Street and behind the back of the Scottish Parliament.

The Sun led with its familiar brand of reckless cheer-leading by looking forward to “Happy Monday” when you can sit in the park, when pubs and cafes open their gardens and no restrictions will be placed on your time away from home. “Hurrah, lockdown freedom beckons” hollered the Daily Mail.

Surely, the Mail knows by now never to use the world “Hurrah” in a headline. Within hours, their battalions of critics queued up to remind them of the damning pro-fascist feature written by its proprietor, Viscount Rothermere, in 1934, which carried the headline “Hurrah for the Blackshirts”.

Beyond the cheerleading, Russell Lynch, The Daily Telegraph’s economics editor, wrote a strident defence of the free market insisting that “the cost of saving lives in this lockdown is too high”. This is Tory policy in its purest form, a trade-off between health and wealth, in which creating and defending wealth must win out.

I sincerely hope that Scotland rejects having yet another Tory ideology thrust on us, and continues to follow the science. The time has come for the First Minister to acknowledge a more subtle set of ideologies north of the Border where health, welfare and human life are at the fore and where wealth creation, a necessary engine to the economy, is not given reckless preference.

Let us never forget, it was the Tory ideology of rampant privatisation that forced care for the elderly into the hands of speculators and profiteers, a catastrophic ideological decision which is now reaping the dark rewards of an escalating death toll, not least in Forbes’s own homelands.

Nicola Sturgeon finds herself between a rock and a hard place. She faces a predicament that acts as allegory to a much wider challenge for Scottish society. If she takes a markedly different approach to Westminster, the hounds of hell descend on her, and the delicate chess game of asserting Scotland’s independent nationhood will be used to undermine her administration. Equally, if she waits until London shows her the way, then she is conceding the Scottish Parliament is little more than a provincial outpost led by its absent landlords.

AT times, the questions that the First Minister fields at her daily briefings are so pathetic and trans-parently malign, that you can sympathise with those decent citizens that have abandoned Scotland’s print press. I am one of many thousands of people who not only wish her well but hope that her huge resources of tolerance slip and that, to use the vernacular, she hands some of Scotland’s journalists “their arse on a plate”.

Sad as this may seem, I regularly tune into her briefings, not for the core message itself but to watch the tortured and risible questions she is asked. It is a dark hobby akin to watching Celebrity Bake Off just to remind yourself that talent and celebrity are two wholly different concepts.

As Scotland follows the science, Westminster has played fast and loose with the data. Since this whole daily shitshow started they have been making up their own manipulative rules about statistics. “I don’t think there are any benefits in making international comparisons,” said Boris Johnson, the worst Prime Minister in modern history, on a day he was reduced to a babbling wreck at the feet of Labour leader Keir Starmer.

For Johnson, governing is entertainment, and having to deal with a complex pandemic was not part of the gig. For Sturgeon it is a public duty, not what she would have wished for in life, but a challenge she has not shirked. That is the real measure of their difference.

There is a body of opinion that believes that the Covid-19 pandemic has derailed the journey to independence. I hold the opposite view. Nicola Sturgeon’s leadership has closed down one hoary old argument.

There was once a time when Westminster was seen as the domain of the big-beasts, the stirring intellectuals and the great minds. By comparison Holyrood was the place of indentured local councillors and low-ranking cringe. By God, those days are well and truly over.

Sturgeon’s daily briefings have put paid to that rancid old canard.

We are in the midst not only of a pandemic but of a data war, where statistics are the armoury of ideology. Last week The Daily Telegraph, in an unbelievably huffy defence of the status quo, carried a degrading feature by David Green, the chief executive of Civitas, a think tank that claims to “stand apart from party politics and transitory intellectual fashions”. Green aimed both barrels at what he begrudgingly calls BAME campaigners, accusing them of sifting through data to demonstrate higher rates of death within minority communities.

His essay was not just counter-intuitive it was bleakly reactionary. “The coronavirus crisis initially led to a great surge of national solidarity symbolised by Thursday evening clapping,” he wrote. “But this sense that we are all in it together appears to have been intolerable to the inequalities industry, whose unrelenting strategy is to identify statistical disparities that can be portrayed as manifestations of victimhood.”

The statistics have exposed another unlikeable trait within the Unionist mind-set – a casual disrespect for people across Europe. The backtracking and arithmetical wriggling about Italy, which only a month ago was portrayed as an unruly basket case, is masterly to behold.

This week, the UK overtook Italy and now has the highest number of coronavirus deaths in Europe.

It should have been a moment for shame and deep reflection but almost everyone from the daily press to the BBC contorted themselves in knots to show that the statistics were either compromised or untrustworthy.

In what possible world could Britain be the worst in Europe – sadly the one we are tied to.