WHAT has happened of late to the Scotland I value? I’m talking about the Scotland of tolerance, invention, wisdom and canniness that embraces difference as a positive, challenging thing and is internationalist in political outlook.

There are those who will argue that Scotland has always been short of such things, and others who will equally make the case that this remains a place characterised by these qualities and values.

But to paraphrase a few lines from Dougie MacLean’s classic old song Caledonia, I do indeed sense a few changes that have come over many of us lately regarding the Scotland of which we are citizens. I look around, certainly in the political arena, and where until recently there was a robust and intelligent debate on Scotland’s future and place in the world, there is an increasingly unedifying, puerile bickering.

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Like children trying to impress, some writers of seemingly endless blogs, tweets, and newspaper columns compete to show who is more pro-independence or staunchly Unionist. Some also flash their alleged credentials in our faces like political bling. Others are more shadowy and surreptitious in their modus operandi.

Not having the guts to do it openly or, in some cases even be identified, these political “voices” sometimes spit out vitriol and bile from behind pseudonyms. Some even operate in nasty, politically self-absorbed cabals, plotting whom next to target among their “Yoon” or “Nat” foes. For this dialogue of the deaf, the Twitter backstab has become the weapon of choice.

Talk about fiddling while Rome burns? All around us, Scotland faces political challenges that are near unprecedented such as how we run our economy, health service, schools and universities.

Then there are the colossal implications of Brexit, and dealing with a Tory government as cynical and uncaring as its counterparts in the Thatcher years.

As I write this, the world remembers that same day in 1945 when the United States detonated an atomic weapon over the Japanese port city of Nagasaki. On the day that I write this too, the “leader” of the free world and his counterpart in the open-air prison that is North Korea use identical “fire and fury” language that could lead to a nuclear war, annihilating millions.

In the Middle East the situation is already out of control, with many dead and others uprooted from their homes and forced to flee. Across swathes of the world, four famines threaten so many more from Yemen to South Sudan.

But, hey, what do such things matter when compared to calling out “Yoons” and “Nats”? Political tribalism and narcissism, it seems, have become the order of the day for some in Scotland. You can’t help feeling that these people need to get out more and strive for the chance to see the bigger political picture and its impact on lives beyond their limited horizons.

Those responsible for this petty political point scoring should not for a moment imagine that they are helping Scotland’s political future.

If there’s good news in all of this, it’s that the cadre of bleaters inhabiting this echo chamber are greatly outnumbered by people who make a serious political and cultural contribution to Scotland’s reputation and wellbeing.

Scotland is, and must be, bigger than the political bickering that prevails. Whether one supports independence or not, it’s vital that Scotland’s track record as an enlightened and engaging place does not fall further foul of the corrosive climate some seem content to foster or wallow in.

Travelling widely as I do in my role as a foreign affairs reporter, I’m frequently reminded of the goodwill that exists towards Scotland. This observation is not predicated on a “wha’s like us?” view of the world, but based on empirical evidence of encounters with those I have met far and wide. This is something we should be proud of.

It’s a positive, constructive essence that many countries would give their eye teeth to possess. For Scotland it operates as a two-way process. The more we reach out, show ourselves to be open minded, tolerant, willing to engage and display maturity in handling our affairs, the more other nations respond in kind.

Visiting Edinburgh earlier this week as the international festival got into its full stride was reminder of these positive vibes at work and the immeasurable benefits they reap. Here is a world-class showcase of some of the best Scotland, and the world, has to offer; what an ambassadorial role and unmistakable message such events send out to the world.

Later this month I will have the pleasure of chairing a panel event on Libya and the Arab Spring at the Beyond Borders Festival in Innerleithen. It’s not the first time I’ve visited this small but influential two-day festival that aims to provide a platform for what it calls small-nation dialogue.

How it goes about doing this is simple but incredibly effective, harnessing Scotland’s heritage to provide political and cultural leaders as well as ordinary citizens with the opportunity to exchange experiences.

Over the past few years, Beyond Borders has attracted an incredible range of international figures from the likes of Staffan de Mistura, UN Special Envoy for Syria, to American-British playwright Bonnie Greer and the renowned journalist Sir Harold Evans.

Again, this is testimony to the pulling power Scotland has and a ringing endorsement of its ability to provide such platforms. These are tricky political times in Scotland and that is the case elsewhere in the world. For this reason alone, there is still so much we can learn from looking out rather than becoming fixated with the political navel gazing that preoccupies some in Scotland, to our nation’s detriment.

Let’s not squander the marvellous talents, abilities, reputation and ambition we have. The time has come to put Scotland’s political debate and aspirations back into the big league where it belongs, and start behaving like grown ups in a real nation.