THINK back, if you can bear it. Think about the earliest days of the Covid crisis and that first lockdown in March 2020. Most of us were scared witless. We didn’t know how vulnerable we might be; we had no idea as to the pandemic end game or, indeed, if there would ever be one.

Then contemplate how you might have felt if the responsibility for responding to this looming catastrophe lay at your own door. If you had to decide what to do when and were trying to make sense of often ­conflicting scientific advice.

Think how you might have felt as a ­politician in charge of the response to Covid, responsible for the health and ­wellbeing of an entire nation. And tell me you wouldn’t have been weighed down with terror.

I don’t know Nicola Sturgeon (below) well. But I did have more of a ringside seat ­during ­Covid watching Jeane Freeman, the ­erstwhile cabinet secretary for health.

The National:

And I do know for sure that both these women worked all the hours sent to try and get on top of the crisis and keep the public informed all the while.

Not that you’d notice from some of the sneering coverage.

I think about all of that when I listen to the witnesses to the Covid Inquiry and the media response to them. A mightily ­variable response it should be said.

It’s not just whataboutery to consider the contrast between the first minister and senior cabinet colleagues in Scotland and the now detailed chaos at party central ­otherwise known as 10 Downing Street.

READ MORE: Ruth Wishart: The word ‘national’ is not the issue for the SNP

It’s not whatboutery to observe that ­Boris Johnson was flailing about most of the time trying to match his own ­libertarian ­instincts to the growing belief that it could never be business as usual again.

Between his indecision being final and his top team throwing contracts around their pals like men with four arms, we got something of an object lesson in how to make a poor-quality drama out of a very real crisis.

Anyone charged with calling the ­former prime minister an effing clown could ­always plead veritas should it ever become a matter for m’learned friends. It won’t, of course.

It wasn’t just Scotland’s former first ­minister who concluded that Johnson (below) was the wrong man in the wrong place when the solid matter hit the fan. In truth, it’s gey difficult to knit a political scenario for which he WOULD be properly cast.

The National: Former prime minister Boris Johnson is fighting for his political future (Victoria Jones/PA)

Then there’s the obsession with ­WhatsApp. Not the shedload cheerfully deleted by Scotland Secretary Alister Jack, but those dumped by Sturgeon.

At the time, I checked what the ­ministerial guidance actually advised.

It said that WhatsApp messages should be deleted every month unless they had a bearing on policy formation, in which case a note to that effect should be ­centrally lodged.

Yet, you know, who chucked what is hardly the point of an inquiry which was supposed to give us a steer as to how we might prepare better for another similar emergency.

We got a small flavour of that when Freeman and Sturgeon talked about the deaths from Covid of hospital-discharged patients, and the distress caused by ­ social distancing in residents who might be ­beyond understanding the why of it all.

READ MORE: Starmer has no appetite for change – independence is the only way

They were in little doubt that certain things should have been done differently; a verdict more easily reached with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight.

The other strand of questioning which was endlessly revisited was whether or not the Scottish Government in general – and the former FM in particular – felt able to use the pandemic as cover for another push on independence.

(If only, if only, comes the cry from the Albanites).

For it’s an odd factor in Scottish ­politics that some people can unblushingly ­accuse the party founded to gain independence of being obsessive about that goal, whilst others wring their hands at the lack of progress to the same end.

For my own part, I believe it takes a neck of more than usually solid brass to charge the Scottish Government with playing politics at the same time as the ever-sleekit Michael Gove was preparing a secret report on the need to protect the Union.

It is alleged that this might have been funded by monies from the Covid budget. I have no knowledge of that. I do know frequent attempts to get him to come clean were routinely rebuffed.

I do know – because he admitted as such this last week – that the report suggested maintaining the Union was a top priority and that all policy should be seen through that prism.

Let us please remember that, the next time anyone from the Westminster ­cabinet feels able to have a rant about “whingeing Jocks”, or comes up with some mickey mouse statistics on ­comparative budgets.

As the then finance secretary, Kate Forbes noted in her evidence, it was well nigh impossible to construct a safety net for Scottish employees during the ­pandemic when the chancellor of the ­exchequer had the only key to the kitty.

What he decided on furlough schemes, only he could decide, and, as ever, Scotland would need to wait to find out what crumbs would fall from the Barnett table.

This is routinely described in the ­Unionist media as grievance-mongering when actually it’s no more than logically observing that he who’s in charge of paying the piper can call all the best tunes.

A very limited ability to borrow and a need to keep the budget in balance are very real constraints.

In contrast, Jeremy Hunt can think of a number and double it at will.

Advised by everyone from the ­International Monetary Fund to the ­Institute for Fiscal Studies that ­pre-election tax cuts would be the road to further ruin, Jeremy prefers instead to lend an ear to those right-wingers who have captured his party.

You can all but smell the fear in that party right now. Very many Tory MPs are polishing up their CVs, secure in the knowledge that the electorate can hardly wait to give them their jotters.

Meanwhile, Labour, determined not to be seen measuring the Downing Street curtains prematurely, are spending the run-up to the election shredding anything which might be construed as a left-leaning policy. Socialism is not so much a dirty word, as a term wholly expunged from the dictionary.

Last week’s love-in with the business community gave us more of a clue about where what was previously seen as the People’s Party now plan to plant their standard. Not just the promises on corporation tax, but the thinly disguised impatience to ditch their previous pledge of billions for a green economy to fund future growth in future industries.

No matter that the voters rather liked that initiative. All must be sacrificed on the altar of electoral victory. But what does Labour actually stand for, comes the increasingly plaintive cry? What does Sir Keir actually believe in?

Can’t help you there. But I can confirm that he is a resolute Unionist, ­uninterested in giving Scotland any kind of voice which might threaten the status quo.

I kinda suspect that the Labour leader would find much with which he agreed in the report compiled by Gove which ­argued that keeping the UK intact should be a government imperative.

Here in Scotland, Labour are licking their lips at the thought of recapturing previous fiefdoms. We might even find out shortly if Anas Sarwar is his own man or merely the tartan conduit for His ­Master’s Voice.

What we do know is that he too has set his face against anything that may give our country a stronger voice.

He too is ­implacably opposed to ­independence. Voters would do well to remember that.