Word licked around the village last week of a nearby pub that has twice been visited by police lately. Various people have reported that this watering hole was seen with customers four-deep at the bar. Worse still, it was not bothering to take contact details. There was astonishment at such a flagrant and offensive breach of the rules. Anger too. The irresponsibility of behaving like this is staggering.

Those who choose to take a risk on their own behalf are welcome to do so in whatever ways they like, as long as it poses no threat to others. Unregulated and untraceable gatherings like this, however, which are not merely condoned but actively encouraged by the publican, are a severe risk to public health. They are inexcusable.

Landlords who operate outwith the law might attract a heedless or rebellious crowd today, but local memories are long, and some folk won’t ever forgive them. While I’m not given to nursing resentment, since many of my friends are vulnerable to Covid-19 this is one grudge I’ll hold for years. Justifiably so, I’d say. If members of the hospitality industry can show utter disdain for the current hygiene and protection measures, what sort of premises do they normally run? How clean are the beer taps or the kitchen? Given their laxity over the transmission of a potentially fatal disease, could you be confident they would abide by the eat-by dates on the food they serve? Or keep raw and cooked meat apart?

As the Covid-19 infection rate escalates, it seems almost everyone has a similar story to tell. It could be a barbers where young men wait, huddled like skittles, while Sweeney Todd neglects to wear PPE, or an Edinburgh middle-class hostelry last weekend, where no attempt was made to enforce social distancing, and a pack thronged inside and out back. Yesterday my husband had an email from a friend who lives in Gorgie and Dalry, at the other end of the social spectrum. If his neighbourhood was any guide, he wrote, we would soon be engulfed in a second wave. Far from wearing masks in shops and keeping their distance from each other, folk around him were carrying on as if it were 2019, when you could cough and splutter over strangers without scaring them out of their wits.

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The growing tally of cases is deeply concerning, even though as yet there has been no corresponding rise in deaths. Scotland had been doing so well in eliminating infection that you can picture medics and Holyrood’s ministers with heads in hands. The summer holiday season is partly to blame for heightened transmission, but it seems the biggest culprit by far is apathy and ignorance. People have either become complacent, thinking the peak of danger has passed, or they’ve grown bored with restrictions and are determined to do whatever they like, regardless of the consequences. Hence the crush at the bar.

Early during the pandemic I heard a church minister caution us not to leap to judgement about the way other people were behaving if they seemed to be breaking the rules. As a general principle, live and let live seems a reasonable way to maintain a harmonious community. One of my young friends was twice reported to the police for minor and accidental infringements of the lockdown rules by a neighbour – hardly a recipe for civic cohesion. Unsurprisingly, she has already sold up.

In testing times such as these, there will always be justifiable exceptions where a bit of leeway has to be allowed or a calculated risk run, for the greater good. And there will always be those – too often from more privileged and so-called educated households – who think they are immune to disease or prosecution. These are the ones who make my teeth grate and yet, would I call the authorities? Unless they were holding a rave, of course not.

No such lenience should apply, however, to businesses that disregard the rules. During a short stay in the capital the other week, I was impressed by the rigour of one New Town pub landlord, who untiringly enforced the regulations. By the end of his shift he must have been hoarse as well as exhausted. In restaurants the strictness of protocols varied, but all of them were on message too. You could sense relief at being able to operate once more, but also an awareness of how precarious the situation remains. Who would want to be the cafe or bar that led to the whole sector being shut?

With cases spreading across the country like beer from a spilt bottle, Nicola Sturgeon is coming under pressure to close all pubs, which are seen as petri dishes of disease. At times like this, my inner Stasi officer emerges. If places that knowingly flout the law were immediately reported, others could be protected. For the benefit of the entire country, the law should be vigorously upheld. A police warning is clearly not enough to prevent repeat offending. For so long as we are trying to control this exceptionally virulent virus, hostelries that refuse to comply with safety regulations should lose their licences, and shops or cafes or any other business that fails to reach the necessary standards, either for the public or staff, ought to be closed on the spot.

That, surely, is the only way to prevent entire sectors of the economy being mothballed once again. Were that to happen, some would never re-open. Already the bar and pub trade is so diminished there are fears of at least 12,500 jobs being lost. If the criminal recklessness of a few leads to the closure of all, that figure will soar.

Is this a call for a nanny state? You might call it that, but in the current climate, when lives are at risk and the economy teeters on the abyss, there would be worse manifestations of Holyrood’s authority. Nannies are neither dictators nor despots, but acting in a child’s best interests. I’d like to say that negligent landlords and businesses are infantile, but that would be an insult to babies and toddlers. They are too young to know better. Refuseniks, on the other hand, have no excuse. Motivated by selfishness and greed, they couldn’t care less about collateral damage. The time has come to shop them.