IN a rare example of the Scottish Conservative Party complaining that the SNP are talking Scotland down, Tory MSPs lined up to criticise the Scottish Government’s cautious move into phase two of the lifting of lockdown restrictions on Thursday.

“Too little. Too late. Too slow. No ambition from Sturgeon at all,’’ said their constitutional spokesperson, Adam Tomkins.

Has Mr Tomkins forgotten about the coronavirus crisis and why lockdown was necessary in the first place? This isn’t the patriotic repainting of a plane we are talking about here, it’s the suppression of a deadly virus that has already claimed the lives of thousands of Scots.

His complaint suggests that if his leader Jackson Carlaw was first minister, we would have moved out of lockdown further, faster and sooner. Which, given that the UK Government is moving at a similar pace to the Scottish Government, is a curious line to take.

It’s as if the Scottish Tories are struggling to find their place in this crisis. As the main opposition party at Holyrood, they should be scrutinising the Government’s approach. Their job is not to

blindly support Nicola Sturgeon’s plans but to apply pressure and constructive opposition to make them better.

That requires a level of seriousness that is sadly lacking among Tory MSPs, so instead, we see faux indignation and vapid sloganeering. With one eye on the Holyrood election next year, they are hoping to capitalise on the lockdown fatigue. In this I fear they are misreading the public mood. They are mistaking grumbles and irritability with the restrictions for mistrust in the Scottish Government. Sometimes having a moan is cathartic.

As the weeks go on, lockdown becomes all the more difficult to sustain. Gone are the heady days of bread baking and drinking like it was Christmas. The financial and emotional impact of this life-altering and isolating time is keenly felt by all.

I, like others, would love nothing more than for my daughter to be able to stay overnight with her grandparents again and get back to school full-time.

I would like to have something other than my weekly trip to the supermarket to look forward to. I’ve moaned about all these things, as have others, but that doesn’t mean I think the Scottish Government is wrong to be cautious.

Governments should, of course, be ambitious. But for any responsible leader dealing with a health emergency, the overarching aim should be to preserve life, not to chase favourable headlines. If Nicola Sturgeon had been advised that opening beer gardens this week was safe, she’d have done it and taken the guaranteed front page headlines “The Drinks Are On Nic!’’ that would have followed.

This emergency has forced leaders to make unpopular decisions. Twelve weeks into lockdown, we’re all feeling the strain and it would be easy to buckle to pressure and give the public the respite they are craving. As Nicola Sturgeon has said, it’s in some ways easier to convince people to stick with the advice when the virus is out of control.

As the danger recedes, so does some of the willingness to follow the rules. In that respect it is the Scottish Tories who are lacking ambition. When we’ve come so far it would be foolish to accept a potentially temporary easing of restrictions when the prize of a real and lasting return to normal is so close to being won.

While there has been broad agreement from the Scottish and UK Governments in the sequencing and timing of easing lockdown, there has also been a noticeable divergence in presentation. Nicola Sturgeon’s caution and the way in which she has qualified every drop in hospital admissions and deaths with a reminder that we can’t afford to be complacent couldn’t be more different to the approach taken at Westminster.

THE UK Government, which is stuffed full of ministers whose “ambition” is only matched by their mediocrity, has gone hard on British exceptionalism and the “Get Covid DONE!” rhetoric.

Despite lurching from one disaster to another, it has never let the rising death toll dent its bravado. Boris Johnson set the tone back in March, when he asserted that within 12 weeks his Government would “turn the tide’’ on coronavirus. “I am absolutely confident that we can send coronavirus packing,’’ he said.

It would have been far too sensible and unambitious for the Conservative Government to simply promise competence and responsible leadership. Instead it vowed to be the best in the world.

The latest casualty of its misguided confidence was the test and trace app which we were told would be “world-beating” yet proved ultimately to be a waste of time and money and has now been scrapped.

The same app that the Scottish Tories were furious that Nicola Sturgeon wasn’t enthusiastic enough about at the time. Leaders across the world will be defined by their response to this crisis. Some will emerge stronger for it and others will haemorrhage credibility and trust.

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All will have made mistakes along the way. Those that are judged to have put party politics ahead of their responsibilities will come out worst of all.

Nicola Sturgeon should continue to be guided by scientific experts and ignore the increasingly desperate shrieks from the Scottish Tories. They’ve shown this week that ambition isn’t always noble.