WHEN I interviewed Jeane Freeman last year, she revealed something of the mood and atmosphere that prevailed within the Scottish Government as it sought to lead the country through the pandemic.

Of course, the former health minister was limited in the detail of her recollections owing to the ongoing inquiry into the Scottish Government’s handling of the crisis.

It was clear, though, that underpinning the government’s approach was a genuine desire to help the population cope with this life-changing event as best it could.

And even though the political commentariat might have been critical over some of the early decisions, none of us could reasonably dispute that uppermost in the minds of our political leaders at the time was a commitment to maintaining our wellbeing.

What’s also become clear as more light has been shed on the UK Government’s approach to the pandemic is that nothing of this characterised their approach. We already knew that ministers and their families had used the contagion as a get-rich-quick scheme of the type usually associated with organised crime cartels.

Last week’s revelations, contained in a tranche of electronic messages published by the Daily Telegraph, spoke of something even more insidious. They revealed not merely a neglect of the UK Government’s duty of care towards its citizens, but something that bordered on outright contempt.

This ranged from a basic failure of arithmetic in estimating how many people would die to the notion that there was an acceptable degree of collateral damage. They all seemed to know that however high the death toll was, the brunt of it wouldn’t be borne by those groups most inclined to vote Tory.

It may be that the full detail of western democracies’ overall failures to protect their most vulnerable communities will never be fully known.

But very few will come close to the level of callousness and outright wickedness that characterised the behaviours of the UK Government.

GIVEN that we’re still in the early stages of recovering from the Covid pandemic, I’ve been surprised at how little it’s featured in the campaigns of the contenders for the SNP leadership.

In our interview, Freeman revealed that her new job at Glasgow University has involved establishing a programme of symposiums where experts and academics from all sectors of society – at home and abroad – might contribute ideas and strategies for future-proofing against the effects of another pandemic. Much of this would also focus on lessons to be learned from the Covid-19 outbreak.

What’s certain is that a health threat similar in scale to Covid-19 is more probable than not. Geopolitical aggression by rogue states is now much more sophisticated than local land-grabs by narcissistic psychopaths like Vladimir Putin.

Sadly, though, the response of the so-called progressive West when faced by bad actors on the global stage has not evolved from the gunboat diplomacy of the late 19th century.

Nato and its useful idiots in the Scottish and UK governments and the developed West are using Ukraine to front up a proxy war against Russia, despite knowing for many years how this was inevitably going to play out. Indeed, Margaret Thatcher warned her western allies of the dangers implicit in isolating Russia following the fall of Soviet Communism. The likelihood is that American and British troops will soon see action. President Zelenskyy has already demanded as much.

Rather than continue to cheer from a safe distance with a fake tin helmet, I’d be interested in how our leadership contenders intend to protect the population if the war in Europe’s eastern approaches advances to our shores.

Unfortunately, what passes for our foreign policy hasn’t advanced much from the days when the British Empire was circumnavigating the globe and administering damned good thrashings to Johnny Foreigner.

JUST as Covid-19 provided opportunities for enrichment by venture capitalists, so the war in Eastern Europe is proving to be very lucrative for the world’s arms manufacturers. What a time it is to be alive for them. And what a friend they have in Britain.

According to the Campaign Against Arms Trade, the UK is already a favoured destination for the world’s dodgiest regimes to source arms and money. Prior to the war in Ukraine, the City of London provided full, nothing-to-see-here access to billionaire oligarchs seeking to divest themselves of the loot they took from the Russian people.

IF progressive politicians and their keyboard John Waynes in the press really want to see an end to the war in Ukraine, perhaps they should be asking what’s really influencing the Ukrainian weapons Klondike. Handy hint: when this is all over, follow the money. And the contracts.

Second handy hint: key in Halliburton and the Iraq War. And perhaps, too, ask how many US contractors – among them donors to Republican presidential campaigns – filled their boots with the $8 billion worth of contracts for reconstructing post-war Iraq and Afghanistan in their immediate aftermath.