IT IS HARD to believe, but things seemed so straightforward back in March, in the early days of the pandemic. We locked down and knew where we stood, whereas now, with different and ever-changing restrictions, it is easy to feel confused and bewildered.

That is not helped when ministers do not seem to follow their own guidelines, as in the five-level system. Along with East Lothian Council, I spent much of last week arguing that the county should be in Level 2, in line with what we were told the indicators were showing. Instead, the First Minister left us in the more restrictive Level 3, while at the same time keeping other areas with far higher infection levels in Level 3 too.

As politicians, our efforts to explain these measures are also hampered by the publication of only minimal summaries of the evidence and advice behind these decisions. That was also true of the sudden shift to requiring senior pupils to use face coverings in the classroom – probably the right thing, but out of the blue on a Friday after Parliament had spent a week discussing Covid with no mention this was coming.

I should point out too that MSPs were not asked to agree these five levels – we were asked to ‘note’ them; when ministers say they were “supported unanimously” they are stretching a point.

In yet more change, as I write the First Minister is hinting that she might, after all, switch to a stricter national lockdown to benefit from an extended job retention scheme, which might well have been better earlier, for example, while schools were closed in October.

In the end, I think the only way through this is to keep our heads and make sure we do follow the current restrictions, in the hope that our schools can stay open, infection rates fall and we are moved back to Level 2 or better as soon as possible.