The fact that the Scottish Government got it so badly wrong during those crucial weeks is an uncomfortable truth for the independence movement, which explains why many Yes supporters are still in denial about it. Some still defend the indefensible by suggesting that Leitch and co were simply following the science as it was then, and that the science subsequently changed. Frankly, that is complete rubbish. Leitch was explicitly rejecting the clear advice of the world-leading WHO experts, which was to test every suspected case, to trace the contacts of anyone who tested positive and to isolate them. Crucially, the WHO had established that coronavirus did not behave like flu - the speed of transmission was not rapid enough to make suppression through contact tracing impossible, as the experience in both China and South Korea was demonstrating before our eyes. The British scientific advisers, though, were in love with their own sense of resignation, and simply refused to believe this growing body of evidence. Newspapers were briefed with gibberish about how the virus was supposedly just 'hiding away' in South Korea, implying that the country's apparent success in suppressing the virus was illusory.
In a nutshell, then, there was world science and there was British science, and the Scottish Government plumped for British science without a moment's hesitation. That perhaps isn't a surprise as far as the civil service aspect is concerned, because ultimately people who work for the Scottish Government are part of the UK civil service and have to serve two masters. But as for ministers themselves? Why would the leading members of the Scottish National Party "think British, not global" at the most critical moment of government decision-making since the Second World War? Ultimately, that is why this episode is even more uncomfortable for unionism than it is for the independence movement, because the only possible lesson to draw is that the Scottish Government did make a terrible error, and that error was to be too slavishly loyal to the British state, to the British system, and to the myth of British exceptionalism. As soon as we departed from UK government policy, the situation improved markedly.
Curiously, though, I'm not sure even the SNP leadership themselves have fully learned that lesson. They still seem to instinctively prefer a Westminster-led 'Four Nations' approach wherever possible, including on oil, of all things. There are also some symbolic giveaways of the underlying attitudes behind all this, for example the comments from Nicola Sturgeon about how it was so exciting to have Emma Raducanu to support in the way that we've always supported Andy Murray. Now, I totally understand being excited by Emma Raducanu as an individual player - she's a sensation who may well go on to dominate women's tennis for the next decade. But if you bracket her with Andy Murray, and say those are the two players who excite you, and imply that it's because of something they have in common, then that something can only really be that they're both...British. Which implies that you regard yourself as British and feel a strong loyalty to Britain as a country. Maybe I'm missing something here, but I'm not sure what that could be.