By Iain Gray, East Lothian MSP

IT TURNS out that ‘locking down’ in the face of the worst public health crisis in living memory was tough, but opening up is even tougher.

We are reaping the benefits of those months of restrictions, with infection rates low and falling, although we cannot forget so many lives lost, so many families bereaved.

Indeed, the evidence does seem to say that we should have locked down sooner.

However, as restrictions are eased, they seem to get more complicated, and ever harder to observe or enforce.

Families can meet again, but rules about ‘bubbles’ and using toilets are still restrictive and it is hard to understand why face coverings are mandatory on a bus but not in a shop. Local cafes and pubs had geared up to open their outside areas this week only to be told they could not.

As for schools, as I write, debate rages over whether pupils should be back in classrooms full-time in August, or be socially distanced, and therefore only in school half time or less.

Many parents are angry that their children’s education will continue to be disrupted, while others are nervous about the safety of sending them back to school.

The Scottish Government got some of this wrong.

They should have planned a phased return to full-time schooling, even if part-time initially, letting families see the light at the end of the tunnel.

They shouldn’t have encouraged pubs to believe they were going to be opening this week. They have stuck to a ‘five-mile rule’ when no one else has, and stopped our council opening beach car parks and, still, toilets, with disastrous consequences for some villages.

In fairness, though, this was never going to be easy, and if we want to keep those infection rates low, we have to follow the guidance. All of that pulling together, community spirit and looking out for each other we have been so proud of – we need it more than ever now.