Although manifestos have been launched and campaign literature stuffed through doors, there is still an unreal quality about the Scottish elections, due in just over two weeks.
Obviously, the lack of doorstep canvassing, public rallies, soap box scuffles, and the other more visible elements of electioneering are absent because of the continued lockdown here.
But Covid has had a more fundamental impact on the election, rendering it almost irrelevant in light of far graver issues.
What could be graver, you might ask, than fulfilling one’s democratic duty and deciding who should be our next government?
In any normal election year, that would certainly be the case but while so many people are battling for their livelihoods, the political rituals going on in the background have become a sideshow.
Sectors sounding warnings
Every day, some particularly hard-pressed sector sounds new warnings about its future as the current government looks the other way.
Last week it was pub owners and hoteliers, pleading with Scotland’s First Minister to ease lockdown restrictions in line with England so they could trade and try to make up some of the earnings lost in the past year.
Then, over the weekend, it was travel bosses, aghast at news that holidays abroad would not be permitted from Scotland, although international routes will open south of the border from mid-May.
Those who want to travel will simply head to English airports at the expense of the Scottish economy
Nicola Sturgeon delivered this blow during a television interview, outlining her intention to keep Scotland closed so long as coronavirus variants existed.
Her strategy of Covid elimination, not based on any respectable science and impossible to achieve even in New Zealand, takes no account of the successful vaccine roll-out in the UK.
Those who want to travel will simply head to English airports at the expense of the Scottish economy, said Alan Glen of the Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association.
Further government diktats brought fresh anguish to the Night Time Industries Association which represents bars, pubs, nightclubs, and music venues, all teetering ‘on the brink of collapse’.
These businesses have been told that a ‘commercially unviable’ curfew will be imposed even after restrictions are lifted, putting 24,000 jobs at risk.
And in another bombshell, new guidance for restaurants insists on social distancing at tables as well as between them, a move that will be ‘crippling’, said Edinburgh restaurant owner Carina Contini.
Sturgeon said she wants to kickstart the Covid recovery but that will be of little comfort to those businesses currently receiving a kicking
In response to their fears, people worried about the here and now are expected to digest the promises for tomorrow produced by politicians who don’t seem to be taking their plight seriously.
The SNP has made the most outlandish manifesto pledges, with billions of pounds of public spending it cannot resource itself.
Sturgeon said she wants to kickstart the Covid recovery but that will be of little comfort to those businesses currently receiving a kicking as she needlessly prolongs the misery of lockdown.
What good to desperate tourist operators is the Nationalists’ commitment to stimulate rural and island communities while shutting out visitors and the money they would bring?
Free bikes for underprivileged youngsters might secure Green backing in Sturgeon’s ‘green transport revolution’ but they don’t restore ferry services to the Isles, vital for locals and tourists, as ancient infrastructure continues to rot.
Most insulting to at least half of Scots will be the SNP’s proposed Citizens’ Assembly, which will ‘help find consensus on issues where people have sharply divided opinions’ and involve citizens ‘in the major changes affecting our lives’.
Does the First Minister expect voters to believe this when her party has turned a deaf ear for 14 years to the protestations of anyone who departs from the separatist script?
Sturgeon herself appears detached from reality in this election. Her manifesto giveaways depend on Westminster funding yet at the top of the party’s priorities is an independence referendum.
Perhaps she thinks she has it in the bag and doesn’t have to try to address the real concerns of Scotland.
But people have had enough; they don’t care about grandiose schemes from a government that spent more than a decade neglecting its basic domestic responsibilities on education and health to focus on constitutional upheaval.
Jaundiced voters must turn out
Most of all, the electorate does not want Indyref2. Poll after poll has shown no appetite for a rerun of the divisive plebiscite of 2014, something the SNP acknowledges by burying any reference to a referendum on its election leaflets.
And yet the party intends to press ahead with its separatist agenda in the first half of the next parliament if it wins an outright majority.
In launching the Scottish Tories’ manifesto on Monday, leader Douglas Ross, too, had the referendum uppermost on his mind, urging voters to act in the national interest by stopping the SNP.
Only by denying the Nationalists a victory can Scotland hope to get back on its feet. However jaundiced Scots are by the political circus, they must turn out on May 6.