SCOTTISH politics loves a good rammy and the latest one involves the First Minister, public health expert Professor Devi Sridhar and former Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson.

For those who haven’t followed it, Professor Sridhar – a public health expert and adviser to the Scottish Government - tweeted her view that if Covid-19 cases can be reduced (to under 20) and the test and protect infrastructure was working effectively, schools should be able to re-open as normally as possible in August.

This was retweeted by the First Minister who commented that, while plans for physical distancing must be in place, if we succeed in suppressing the virus and can ensure we keep it suppressed, schools operating nearer to normality would be possible. She reiterated that the Scottish Government would continue to be guided by evidence and that successfully suppressing the virus required care in easing lockdown.

This exchange was picked up by some who interpreted it as a call to change policy. Professor Sridhar then clarified that she supported the FM’s approach. 

What happened next was pretty extraordinary even by the standards of Scottish political twitter. Former Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson intervened, tweeting essentially that Professor Sridhar had been leant on to change her position. There was no evidence for this and Professor Sridhar strongly denied it.

What was extraordinary is that Professor Sridhar and the First Minister were basically agreeing with each other. Both were arguing that suppressing the virus can enable schools to operate with something closer to normality – and that continued adherence to public health guidance and a robust test and protect system are key to suppressing the virus. In other words, it was a fuss about nothing.

Does that really matter? After all, most political rammies are about nothing very much. Well, I think it does matter.

READ MORE: Devi Sridhar hits back at Ruth Davidson after 'disgraceful' tweet

The coronavirus is a huge challenge for those tasked with managing it. Nothing illustrates this more clearly than the issue of education. Getting the right balance between protecting public health, enabling children and young people to resume their education and supporting parents to go back to work - all in the context of an evolving pandemic involving a novel virus with no cure - is enormously complex.

Of course people will have different views – often strong views. They are absolutely right to express them and the voices of pupils, parents and teachers must all be heard. In a situation of national crisis, however, I believe everyone is entitled to the presumption that they are arguing in good faith. That may mean listening to views that you disagree with, but we should all be able to respect the fact that those views are genuinely held and to recognise that we all want to achieve the same outcome, even if we don’t agree on the means.

There was a political consensus at the start of this period that “normal” politics would be put to one side as we worked our way through this pandemic. This, in my view, is very necessary in order to have the honest and open discussions about options that we need to have. But, increasingly, Scottish Tories seem to have abandoned that consensus. They often appear to be looking for any opportunity to gouge out a political advantage, irrespective of the means or the consequences of doing that.

I am not naïve enough to demand that politicians should stop politicking completely. But it is very wrong to drag academic experts (or indeed senior NHS personnel) into the political playground. These people are not politicians, they shouldn’t be treated as though they were.

READ MORE: Ruth Davidson slammed for 'disgraceful' claim about virus expert

Nothing I am saying is about avoiding scrutiny or challenge. Challenge is healthy, it can often help to move things on. But was there anything about Ruth Davidson’s intervention which helped move discussion on? No. She was simply stirring.

It’s pretty easy to stir and point-score in a situation like this, precisely because it is so complex and challenging. There are no easy answers, no simple solutions. Most people know that. It makes me wonder if Scottish Tories have considered that they aren’t just getting under the skin of SNP politicians by behaving in this way. I suspect they are doing this to enthuse their core voters. But in the process, I also suspect they are alienating many others.

We still have a long way to go until we are at the end of this pandemic, and we will be dealing with the economic and social consequences for much longer. The public expect politicians to take this seriously and to work together for the national good, not for party advantage. The Tories would do well to re-think their approach because right now they aren’t helping anyone, not even themselves