DECLARING THAT the world is going to Hell in a handcart is an easy – one might even say ‘lazy’ – way for opinion columnists to elicit a reaction from their readers. And more often than not, it's based on exaggeration or personal biases over exactly what this destination ‘Hell’ looks like.

But this week, I am going to take that well-worn route, although it will lead us to a very unapocalyptic vision of purgatory. No flames, no sulphurous fumes, just some big signs saying ‘cancelled’, ‘closed’ and ‘delayed’.

Scotland is an island nation, dispersed, far-flung, in some corners isolated, and to function as a whole, it needs connections. Most pressingly for island communities, that means ferries that run regularly, and on time. Right now, they haven’t got that, and it's hurting.

This week we have heard from the farmers in the islands suffering from inconsistent connections with the mainland, amidst bemusement that there has been plenty of money spent on ferries, to no discernible positive effect.

Whose fault is this? Leaving aside the political tussling between the forces of independence and unionism, both keen to paint the other as incompetent or negligent, the fact is, while the old ferries were working, we took them for granted, and it's only now that they are failing that we realise they were never going to run forever. And what is the point breeding excellent livestock if you can’t get it to market on time?

The same is true for bridges. I have a friend currently engaged in painting the Connell Bridge below Oban, and he assures me it is still solid. But in my family’s neck of the woods, out in Stirlingshire, there are old bridges going out of commission at an alarming rate, leaving rural folk awfully inconvenienced, but there is apparently neither money nor inclination to fix them.

Instead there are those ‘road closed’ signs, and everyone burns twice as much petrol to get where they are going, nervously noting that their longer routes are also over bridges that haven’t had much attention since Queen Victoria and her industrious generation were in charge.

It has been suggested to me that such work would once have been covered by European Union structural funding. I don’t know if this is true. But right now, there’s as much chance of Queen Victoria turning up in a JCB as there is of fresh EU help.

But those bridges have stood forever! Anything that outlives the generation that created it looks permanent to subsequent generations. A bit like the country’s food supply – its always been here, so it always will be, aye?

Perhaps we should start looking after things before they get to the point of failing completely ...