AS we plunged back into lockdown this week many of us have struggled to cope with tighter restrictions on seeing family and friends, caring for children at home and generally warding off feelings of depression and lethargy. Unusual as it sounds, we owe the Tories and the LibDems a vote of thanks for making us laugh while facing into an otherwise grim outlook.

Douglas Ross and Willie Rennie, leaders of the Conservatives and LibDems in Scotland, suggest that our country is unable to cope with democracy while Covid continues its resurgence throughout the country and that major political decisions are simply a “distraction” from the main event.

Tell that to America, which during the pandemic has held a hugely challenging election, turfed out the ever-more deranged Donald Trump and still found the time to elect its first black senator and give the Democrats control the Senate. All these, I think, are big, indeed historic, decisions.

READ MORE: Kevin McKenna: The National is honest about its politics, that's no bad thing

Yet Ross and Rennie have urged First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to scrap any moves to pave the way for a second Scottish independence referendum, on the grounds that pressing head would be a “distraction” from tackling the spread of infection. The suggestion that the political dimension of the pandemic can be simply stripped away because we’re too busy dealing with its effects flies in the face of all the evidence that people are in fact more and engaging more with the big questions which will face us when we finally get Covid under control. It’s laughable … or it would be were it not so hypocritical, deceitful and downright dangerous.

The Tories will use any excuse to deny Scotland the right to express its views and their main tactic is simply to repeat their refusal ad infinitum rather than address the issue at stake. Theresa May’s mantra of “now is not the time” was continually wheeled out whenever the issue of independence was raised. Similarly, Boris Johnson falls back on a threadbare argument that independence was a “once in a generation” issue.

What May meant was that there would never be a time when she would consider independence worthy of consideration. It was not the time for an independence referendum but weeks later it was the time for a general election. Boris Johnson continually redefines the meaning of a “generation” to kick the question of independence further and further into the future but turned a deaf ear when he was urged to postpone Brexit as the pandemic raged.

The truth is that the Tories don’t believe that ALL major political decisions could be mothballed until Covid can be controlled … just those decisions which would allow Scotland to take control of its own future. Scrabbling together a terrible deal with the EU and diverting untold resources to spinning it as “victory for Great Britain”? Bring it on. Protecting the interests of their business friends so that by 5.30pm yesterday afternoon the bosses of Britain’s biggest companies had already earned more than the average worker’s annual wage? No problem. Allow Scotland a say in shaping its own future? Not right now. Not next year, or the year after that. There’s always something more pressing. There’s always something more worthy of attention and effort.

Of course, this notion that independence is a distraction is not shared by the public. All the evidence, all the opinion polls, show that Scots increasingly want another chance to have our say through indyref2. Nor do we seem to regard Covid as a separate, unrelated issue. Along with the astonishing arrogance displayed by Brexit, the different approaches to dealing with the pandemic north and south of the Border is one of the main drivers of the rising support for independence.

Nor is it just affecting Scotland’s attitude to the Union. Plaid Cymru has pledged a referendum on Welsh independence in its first term if it wins enough support in the May elections.

Former Bank of England economist Danny Blanchflower, now a professor at a US Ivy League university, recently suggested Wales could become independent sooner rather than later.

The Brexit deal, and in particular the border in the Irish sea, has fuelled new calls for a united Ireland.

No-one can seriously suggest the Scottish Government is failing to devote itself body and soul to dealing with Covid. That’s not to say it hasn’t made mistakes. It has, and in most cases, it has owned up to those mistakes. But, unlike Boris Johnson, Nicola Sturgeon has appeared in briefings day after day and answered journalists’ questions – the good, the bad and the downright inane – day after day. It’s that tireless dedication that have won her widespread praise and affection.

READ MORE: Alyn Smith: Covid crisis proves again that Scotland needs more fiscal powers

It’s the public who are pressing for the ability to vote for independence. It’s the public who want a fairer world when we rebuild after Covid. What would you call a government that stood in the way of these demands for no reason it is prepared to properly articulate?

Andrew Marr asked Johnson in an interview at the weekend what a voter in Scotland should do if they wanted an independence referendum and what were the democratic tools available to bring about such a vote. It was a good question but Johnson stumbled through a nonsensical reply that such a vote should be denied because … well, just because. It is simply unacceptable that a democratic process supported by a significant majority should be thwarted on the whim of a Prime Minister whose party won just 25% of the vote in Scotland in 2019.

Nicola Sturgeon has quite rightly told Ross and Rennie to get hunted and reiterated her commitment to press ahead with arrangements for indyref2 should expectations of victory in the 2021 Scottish election prove accurate. In doing so she is complying with the demands of democracy. Douglas Ross and Willie Rennie, on the other hand, are ignoring the popular will with an arrogance that is breathtaking for the leaders of parties which at their best manage only dismal performances in Scottish elections.

We won’t be holding a referendum tomorrow. As the number of new infections grow perilously high it’s obvious that priority number one right now is public safety. But when the time is right we will have our say on the best future for our country and no-one will stop us.