IN time, like many others, the Scottish Government will face a day of reckoning over its response to coronavirus.

Some leaders will face theirs with a degree of trepidation, but I suspect Nicola Sturgeon won’t be among them. It’s not that she and the administration she leads haven’t made errors of judgment as this global pandemic arrived confounding certainty. The First Minister has admitted as much herself. Any faults though, have been honest ones.

By that I mean there has been no attempt to treat the public like idiots; no infantile optimism defying the numbers. She has studiously avoided making political capital from the daily end-of-the-pier matinee performances currently showing at the Downing Street pavilion.

Nor has the Scottish Government presided over an emergency procurement scheme that’s made an idiosyncratic assortment of companies and individuals very rich indeed.

It seems that the form you must complete to secure a multi-million-pound coronavirus contract is a very simple one. Question one: how much money would you like us to pay you for delivering face masks and PPE? (It would be helpful here if you could think of a number, double it then add two noughts to it). Note to potential bidders: any experience of making products in this sector is an advantage but not essential.

My favourite is the award by the UK Government of £108 million worth of PPE contracts to a sweetie wholesaler in County Antrim in the North of Ireland. This is currently subject to legal action by the Good Law Project and the campaign group EveryDoctor.

There is absolutely no hint of impropriety attached to the sweetie firm, Clandeboye, which appears to be a player in the sugar and chocolate confectionary sector. Nor is anyone saying that workers in this vital sector don’t require protective clothing to guard against rogue jelly tots and marshmallows.

According to the Belfast-based Irish News, which published this tale, the Good Law Project has argued that, as a “small company permitted to file unaudited/exempt accounts, Clandeboye’s financial and technical standing made it unsuited to the delivery of such large and important contracts”.

Last month a research company called Tussell, which specialises in tracking government contracts, found that a staggering £1.7 billion had been spent on private-sector firms as the UK Government struggled to make up for the sluggish nature of its response to the global pandemic.

One-quarter of the contracts that have been published thus far were won by firms with no previous experience of public-sector work. According to the FT, at least seven contracts worth more than £100 million have been awarded to firms providing Covid-19 testing services, including £151m to Hologic, £133m to Randox Laboratories and £64m to Life Technologies.

As this is all covered by new coronavirus emergency legislation. There is no due processes of tendering and thus very little (if any) evaluation of costs and value for money. Because the UK Government’s early response was chaotic and led by a proven liar and political trickster, that government has been forced to make it up as it goes along.

The same approach appears to have been deployed by firms when it comes to estimating how much a panic-stricken government might be willing to pay them in a hurry. The same government, meanwhile, now wants to keep previously devolved powers to control state aid in Westminster. Perhaps Boris Johnson thinks the Scottish Government will ask too many questions of firms bidding to win government contracts.

AND yet, still Nicola Sturgeon refuses to mock the UK Government’s incontinent response to coronavirus. In doing so, she has earned the one political virtue that trumps all the rest: trust, and not just in Scotland.

Her approval rating is running 80 points ahead of Boris Johnson’s. She hasn’t pulled off any improbable feats of political genius or devised groundbreaking policies that have captured the public’s imagination.

She has simply played it straight with the public in Scotland and England. This has earned her the trust of many who had previously been hostile to her and who feared she presented a grave threat to the Union. When there is a grave threat to your health and to the health of your most loved, tribal concerns tend to get ditched rather quickly.

People in such circumstances ask only one question: can I trust you to do everything in your power to keep me safe and to tell me the truth? I think the respective approval ratings of the UK’s two main political leaders have provided the answers.

This has also earned the First Minister the right to get it wrong, for she will, at least, have done it honestly. Her quick decision to accept the resignation of her chief medical officer, Catherine Calderwood, a respected and admired public health leader, told the UK that she could be trusted.

Boris Johnson, however, chose to indulge Dominic Cummings who single-handedly jeopardised the UK Government’s health messaging by treating the public with barely concealed contempt.

It told England’s citizens that the Government they had recently elected to serve them had returned the favour by instituting a “Save Dominic” policy over the need to save lives. It will be remembered as the most dangerous act of folly perpetrated by a UK leader in peacetime and will come to define Johnson’s premiership.

In the absence of much else to hang around her neck, the First Minister’s opponents are now reduced to accusing her of undermining the Union by being good at her job. How dare you politicise excellence, they shout.

Of course, having gained the faltering trust of those who once reviled her, the First Minister’s main challenge now is to engender trust within the party she leads.

Last Sunday, she refused to be drawn on an independence referendum while the economic effects of coronavirus required to be addressed. To some, this was proof of her own lack of commitment to independence any time soon.

I’m inclined to give her the benefit of the doubt on this and remain confident that a pledge to hold an independence referendum will be at the centre of her manifesto for next year’s Holyrood election.

And surely to God the SNP by then will also have devised a legal strategy instead of attacking those who favour it. By then Scotland, like the rest of the UK, will be forced to deal with the economic fall-out of Brexit too.

The First Minister doesn’t require me to remind her that trust, once gained, can be tricky to maintain.