The National:

THE eyes of the global media are on Scotland as we attempt to adjust to a new normal following months of lockdown.

Earlier this week Al Jazeera produced a story focused on why calls for Scottish independence are growing amid the pandemic – and now The New York Times has examined the differences in approach to the virus crisis north and south of the Border, and the political impact they could have.

Mark Landler writes: “As Scotland emerges from a three-month lockdown, it is moving more carefully than neighbouring England, a divergence that owes a lot to Ms Sturgeon’s cautious style and her conviction that England, under its more freewheeling leader, Boris Johnson, is taking too many risks in a headlong rush to resume public life.”

READ MORE: Scottish independence: Al Jazeera reports on growing Yes support

The Scottish Government estimates that the prevalence of coronavirus in England is five times higher than in Scotland. Professor Devi Sridar, who advises the Scottish Government on their response to the pandemic, has said Scotland could be “weeks” away from eliminating the virus.

Landler goes on: “For now, Scotland’s approach has made it a bright spot in coronavirus-ravaged Britain. New cases have dwindled to a handful a day, and deaths to a trickle.

“If Scotland maintains this progress — a big if, given its open border — it could stamp out the epidemic by the fall, public health experts say. Such a goal seems fanciful in England, which is still reporting hundreds of new cases and dozens of deaths every day.”

The journalist then addresses recent polls putting support for Scottish independence on 54% and reports that this majority is said to reflect “a perception that Scotland’s nationalist-led government has handled the crisis better than Mr. Johnson and his pro-Brexit ministers have”.

A succession of polls have shown trust in Nicola Sturgeon, and the Scottish Government in general, has risen throughout the crisis. Landler speaks to Katy Koren of the Gilded Balloon, a firm which had its Edinburgh Festival events cancelled due to the pandemic.

She tells him Scots have supported Sturgeon because she has been willing to make tough decisions and convinced people that public health is the priority. Landler writes that her “no-nonsense briefings have become a reassuring daily ritual”.

The article goes on to say for those who do not support Sturgeon, there is “more than a whiff of point-scoring” going on – the First Minister has consistently said politics and the constitution has nothing to do with her response to the pandemic, which is entirely led by public health needs. Landler reports on concerns over tourism after Sturgeon refused to rule out introducing quarantine rules for people entering Scotland from the rest of the UK if health advisers said it would be necessary to do so.

But the story goes on to explore Sturgeon’s “strong ideas” about tackling the pandemic – her separate scientific advice group, the test and protect programme less reliant than England’s on private contractors just two of the examples.

Landler continues: “For many in Scotland, however, what matters is not how their country fared relative to the rest of the world, but how it stacks up to England.”

Pointing to Sturgeon’s increasing approval ratings, he says: “That could embolden her to press him to allow another independence referendum — something he has so far ruled out.”

It’s fascinating to see the international media take such an interest in Scotland during this time.

We’ll see if the press a little closer to home takes note.