Pity the four travellers who emerged from the Turkish Airlines flight from Istanbul to Edinburgh on Monday morning to be escorted to a hotel of the Scottish government’s choosing and confined there for 10 days.
They were the first to face Scotland’s draconian new quarantine rules which force into isolation any international arrivals who haven’t had the sense to land in England.
By now, most passengers heading here will have realised they are better off switching to an airport south of the border, where only 33 high risk countries are ‘red listed’ as opposed to the whole world, and then continuing their journey north by road, rail or domestic airline.
The loophole, created by Scotland’s insistence on much stricter restrictions than England’s, is so obvious it is a wonder it didn’t occur to Scottish ministers when they announced their measures a week ago.
Then they might have worked out that Boris Johnson would never agree to adopt the Scottish approach or help the SNP enforce it, and the only face-saving solution for the nationalists would be to threaten to close the borders.
‘I don’t rule it out,’ said Sturgeon on day one of the quarantine farce, which reportedly saw just seven people arrive in Scottish airports and mass confusion over who should be confined.
The episode has provided such a perfect opportunity for nationalist grandstanding that it is tempting to conclude the First Minister deliberately engineered the grievance.
The justification for quarantine at this stage of the Covid pandemic is dubious anyway. Whether Westminster’s light touch version or Sturgeon’s tougher tactics, trying to keep coronavirus variants away from these shores seems a futile quest.
Even Australia and New Zealand with their geographical isolation and wall of steel controls have ultimately failed, with both countries having to reintroduce local lockdowns at the sniff of a positive Covid case.
The difference in the UK is that we have a fast-moving vaccination programme and some natural immunity, achieved at a terrible price admittedly, and are surely reaching the point where we can and must live with the virus.
Johnson said the vaccines did not offer 100 per cent protection, but we are mortal and there are no such guarantees against any eventuality. He is under pressure, with his roadmap a week away, to come to this conclusion himself.
Sturgeon is playing a different game. Having toyed last year with notions of suppressing the virus, she wants us to believe she has some power over its spread. She doesn’t.
Scotland is not doing too badly, with a lower rate of infection currently than the rest of the UK, and almost non-existent community transmission across much of the country, including in Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen.
What we need after almost 12 months of purgatory is a realistic route back to normality. What we are getting instead is a charter for further ruination.
“I’m not sure it [border closure] is the best solution to have. If it’s the only one I can put into place, then it may come to that,” said Sturgeon.
What arrogance in the face of her country’s suffering; what political posturing, to pick a fight she can’t win, that has nothing to do with Scotland’s health and wellbeing and everything to do with her present leadership insecurities.
Border patrols between Scotland and England are unenforceable, as Police Scotland has already made clear. Even Scotland’s transport minister, Michael Matheson, has acknowledged such checks would be ‘very challenging’.
So, what is the First Minister’s plan? Will she deploy her Saltire waving supporters to man their vigilante blockades as they did last summer?
That, along with the destruction of what’s left of Scotland’s tourism industry, won’t succeed in eliminating all visitors, viral or human, but will spell economic catastrophe.
If Sturgeon’s motivation was to ‘protect Scotland’, as she said, she would reflect on the damage done so far by shutting schools, delaying cancer treatment, isolating youngsters, stifling business, dashing hope, and segregating the old.
With Scotland in its best health for a year and vaccination milestones being reached, she still refuses to commit to a timetable out of lockdown.
In England, Johnson is set to give dates for reopening non-essential shops and pubs and restaurants. Families will soon know when they can reunite.
But not in Scotland. Pensioners, despite being vaccinated, could wait another three months to see their love ones, warned Sturgeon.
She has the political equivalent of Munchausen syndrome by proxy, exaggerating Scotland’s Covid danger levels for her own ends.
The pandemic has undoubtedly prolonged her popularity among voters, although not necessarily within the bitter factions of her party.
With elections in May, it is in her interests to preach from her Covid pulpit, courtesy of BBC Scotland, for as long as possible. But what is best for Sturgeon is not what is best for Scotland.