I REMEMBER – it must have been a couple of years ago – one of the party’s press folks joking about how he was using the phrase “well, in normal times ... ” a lot. However exhausting events since 2016 have been, I’m afraid they are nothing compared to what we’re experiencing now. We are living through a transformative event which is going to change how our society works.

People are afraid, and rightly so. I’m one of them. I said in Westminster last week that now is the time to work together and be seen to work together, and I meant it. I’m still passionately in favour of independence, and I think were we independent we would have had a different response to the one we have had.

Ireland is handling things very differently to the UK. But what of it? My job is to live in the real world and achieve what change I can. All bets are off. The parties need to work together and we will. The SNP run Scotland, as we have since 2007, and the Tories happen to be in charge at Westminster as the coronavirus pandemic has hit. People want to know their representatives are putting the badges to one side. As our own inspirational First Minister said last week: “I’ve never been less interested in party politics.”

So the health advice is clear. Stay home. You can leave the house for exercise once a day, for shopping as seldom as you can, or to care for someone who needs it. If you are a key worker then you can and should go to and from work. I know there have been some questions about what is a key worker and what isn’t – more clarification on that will follow in the coming days.

The NHS is in a good place to deal with this, but we must slow the spread to try to ensure those who will catch the virus are as spread out as possible, buying our NHS time to treat them all. I have to say my mailbag and inbox have been full of letters and emails from people asking how to comply, and indeed to volunteer their help to others. I’ve not had a single objection to the measures being taken, in the way that we’ve seen in the right-wing press or on social media. People by and large trust our authorities and are keen to minimise the risk to themselves, their loved ones and society as a whole.

This is also an economic crisis, and the transformation of austerity Tories to big-spending Tories has been remarkable. With a straight face, the austerity mantra has been forgotten and the state suddenly has deep pockets after all.

Homelessness in London has been abolished overnight, with everyone being swept up into temporary shelters so that people can isolate in a safer environment. Salaries for those on PAYE are being protected up to a remarkable amount. And all of it applauded by those who just weeks ago would have argued for the total opposite.

I think for those of us on the left this has been an easier shift – I’m perfectly comfortable with the state stepping in where the market fails or does not deliver, or in a time of crisis.

This is a crisis if ever we saw one. The fact is, our economic model doesn’t, can’t work when we are all being told to stay home, so the state needs to step in to give what security it can to workers and businesses and ensure there will be something at the other end of all this.

A lot of people have been forced into precarious and insecure employment, zero-hours contracts and other bad deals, and they need security that money will keep coming in. What we are still working on is help for the self-employed. The self-employed, the entrepreneurs, are a huge part of the economy, and we are still pushing for them to be properly taken care of.

The UK Government offer to them so far, that they can apply for statutory sick pay, is entirely insufficient. My advice at the moment is to apply for Universal Credit while we argue about how best to support you. Whatever the support is, it is almost certainly going to be delivered via the Universal Credit mechanism, so get yourself in the system soon. This can be done online and I would urge everyone to do it.

There’s a lot of work going on to protect what’s important in our society. Our view of what matters is changing and I hope will be a legacy for what counts and what actually doesn’t once this is over.

But it is not over and there’s a lot of heartache to come yet. We need to look out for each other. Call a friend, Skype a relative, reach out and say hi. Volunteer networks are springing up across the country to help with food or medicine delivery and in other ways. We’ll get through this.