by Colin Campbell
MSP Edward Mountain has called for the armed forces to be used to distribute a coronavirus vaccine to rural areas all across the Highlands.
Mr Mountain’s plea for troops to be on standby for vaccine distribution is at this stage close to being ridiculously premature.
However, on this issue he deserves a pass.
If he has been swept away with hope and optimism that a vaccine could become available in the near or very near future, who could blame him?
There has been so much varied and unconvincing speculation about a vaccine in recent months that it’s been, as with just about everything else, virtually impossible to know where we are.
But when I read report after report yesterday presenting what appeared to be close to a cast iron guarantee that the latest revelation from drug company Pfizer is the real thing, it was impossible not to feel emotional uplift.
One eminent scientist described it as: “A great day for humankind.”
Maybe he was calm and composed when he said that or maybe he was swept away by emotion also. There was perhaps an element of both.
But apart from the curbs and rules and restrictions of recent months, we have been assailed by so much negativity, doom, gloom and scaremongering in the media, obsessed with spreading bad news, that any genuine sign of hope and clarity is extraordinarily good news.
Each person will process this in their own way. But if Edward Mountain chooses to interpret it as the best tidings of the year by far, he is far from being alone.
There may, indeed, be quite some way to go yet. And everyone must still remain “on their guard”. Nicola Sturgeon yesterday issued a new set of tier levels, with the Highlands obviously remaining in the least-restricted tier one.
Her message, as always, was serious and sombre, as it has been throughout this saga. And that’s the way it should be.
She accorded the vaccine news a suitably cautious welcome. Always the cautious one, is our Nicola.
But if there is the prospect of that stern face at some stage breaking into a broad smile of relief and joy, or even the chance of her performing a jig in those high-heeled shoes during her daily broadcasting gig, it would be a glorious sight to see.
Edward Mountain’s armed forces intervention yesterday brings to mind one of the great historical quotes from a time when the armed forces were being called on to a far greater degree.
“This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is the end of the beginning,” said Winston Churchill as the tide turned in our favour in WWII.
And now the latest news of tremendous progress in vaccine development can take us to the beginning of the end of this terrible situation.
Mr Mountain and his troops-on-standby appeal may, offering a silent prayer, not be so wide of the mark after all.