Nicola Sturgeon gives nothing away about further easing of lockdown

Brian Taylor
Political editor, Scotland
@tannadiceladon Twitter

Image source, Reuters
Image caption, The first minister did not want to put a timetable on the reopening of pubs or introducing a social bubble

It is not, in truth, an everyday occurrence. Come on, Brian, what are you havering about now? Get to the point, eh?

Very well. But a little lassitude and longueur may be forgiven with regard to this topic. I speak of torpor, ennui, tedium.

Don't blame me, the first minister started it. Did too. Towards the close of a protracted media briefing, she declared: "Call me boring, if you like".

As if we would. The Wicked Media would trudge, welly-deep, through a thick slurry of alternative descriptions before we would ever arrive at that one.

So what was the purpose of the FM's putative self-abasement? She was trying to make the point that she was engaged in a deeply serious business. Not the customary partisan banter. Nor yet a "popularity contest".

During this particular discourse with the WM, she was repeatedly invited to speculate on future areas in which she might ease lockdown still further, perhaps in some regard emulating the UK government.

No hints, no winks

Come on, FM, how about a social bubble? How about shelving the two-metre rule? What about pubs? The economy?

Ms Sturgeon remained as stoic as a contemporary Epictetus. She would offer neither a nod nor a wink. No hints.

Because, she implied, the snag was that such ill-considered gestures frequently ended up, in childish fashion, with an episode of "takesy backsies". In short, they went, like the best-laid schemes, awry.

She was in grim earnest with this - as she should be, given the topic. But, you know, I can't help wonder whether she also had another governmental leader from these islands in mind - when she spoke of bright, shining initiatives, announced in a blaze of zeal, only to peter out within days.

So nothing to yawn about, today or any other day. In more than 40 years as a political scribe, I have never experienced such a degree of popular engagement in public affairs.

Image source, AFP
Image caption, Nicola Sturgeon announced that the construction industry would be able to restart some work

And why not? It is after all a matter of life and death.

No ministerial tedium today, then. We learned about a new, lower R number in Scotland, about encouraging downward trends in the data, about £11m support for impoverished students, about a go-ahead for construction site work (warmly welcomed by the industry), about an extension to Help to Buy, and about progress in Test and Protect.

If that weren't enough, much more in response to detailed and highly pertinent questions from my chums in the Wicked Media.

But, if there is no danger of tedium at the top, is there an emergent issue with languor and apathy elsewhere?

Are some members of the public, who are still consuming these briefings on the BBC in huge numbers, beginning to find the messages just a little repetitive?

More, are they beginning to find that repetition - which is inevitable, vital even - is beginning to engender a sense of deja vu (or entendu, on the wireless)?

The first minister's 'social contract'

I ask because of anecdotal evidence that adherence to the rules is just, perhaps, maybe starting to slip a little.

Not out of defiance, not out of badness, not out of insurrection. But, perhaps, maybe, out of familiarity. Done this. Done it again. Done it for weeks on end. Time for something else?

Nicola Sturgeon, I feel certain, is very well aware of this particular phenomenon. And its direct application to this crisis.

Which is why she appealed again today for the public to stick with it. To enhance the prospects of exiting lockdown by heeding the many rules which remain.

Indeed, she described it as a social contract. Obey the rules. In particular, heed any request to self-isolate which may come your way from Test and Protect.

In return, she will be able to ease lockdown relatively rapidly, or at least in line with the plan. To which, she reminded us, she intends to adhere.

In return for your co-operation, your freedom will eventually be returned to you. And, incidentally, to your fellow citizens. Without it being subsequently removed once more.

Nothing boring about that, I would suggest.