I’M not a journalist. I’m more of a campaigner, with opinions on issues that matter to me, who is privileged to have the opportunity to write this column.

The process of churning out these words every week has, however, taught me to respect the skills of professional journalists whose craft is honed over many years. It also takes a fair amount of self-discipline to sit down in front of a blank screen and string words and sentences into some kind of coherent piece of writing.

Twitter, Facebook and other digital networks have gone a long way to blurring the divide between the public and the press.

Social media offers everyone an opportunity to get their opinions out to a wider group of people than in the days not so long ago when politics for most people was something you might discuss occasionally with a handful of friends in the pub.

The alternative media are likely to play an even a bigger role in the next referendum, but we still need well-funded professional journalism. Volunteers with limited time and threadbare resources don’t have the capacity to do the kind of in-depth research that some of our best feature writers and investigative journalists are able to conduct. They get flak from all sides, but we need journalists such as the likes of Tom Gordon and Paul Hutcheon to hold those in authority to account, without fear or favour.

A robust, unflinching and strongly resourced press corps is the biggest bulwark we have against the abuse of power, whether in business, politics or civic society.

Don’t get me wrong, I was as frustrated as anyone at the downright tribal hostility towards the Yes campaign displayed by many journalists and newspapers during the referendum. To its credit, Newsquest stood alone and allowed the Sunday Herald to campaign for independence. Then it took the courageous step of launching The National, persuaded by the vision of Richard Walker.

I tend to admire and respect people who have the courage to stand against the stream – and during the independence referendum Richard Walker certainly did that.

What I could never understand is why so many Scottish political journalists were so antagonistic towards independence. Would they really rather leave the reporting of the big issues such as war and peace, immigration, welfare, regulation of the banks, industrial relations and so much more to their big brothers and sisters down in London?

It’s a question I hope some will ask themselves in the future, because if one thing could have reversed, or at least slowed down, the steep decline of the indigenous Scottish media, it would have been the creation of an independent state. The digital revolution is decimating the newspaper industry across the world, but the speed of decline is not uniform. In the Irish Republic, the circulation of indigenous newspapers is falling at half the rate of Scotland.

Twenty years ago, The Herald and The Scotsman together sold 88,000 copies a day more than the Irish Times. Today, between them, the two Scottish quality newspapers sell 20,000 copies fewer than their Republic of Ireland counterpart.

That’s probably because all the big decisions that affect the Irish people are made in Dublin. Why buy a London newspaper whose political news and analysis is at best only half relevant?

Even the process of creating a new national state – with a new constitution, new government departments, and new international relationships – could have helped bring about a resurgence in circulation. And the great national debate that would have been unleashed over immigration policy, for example, or the process of removing Trident, or the inevitable post-independence political realignments, would surely have been a political journalist’s dream.

Had there been a Yes vote, offering infinite new copy, I suspect that newspaper proprietors would now be investing more heavily in Scottish journalism rather than cutting it.

Some unionist journalists defend their position by characterising the SNP Government as the “establishment” in Scotland. That might wash if it wasn’t for the fact that they were defending the most entrenched establishment in the world – the UK state – which can constitutionally pull the rug from under the Scottish establishment any time it chooses.

Of course, all power, including that held by the SNP, should be held up to scrutiny. But because of the referendum, half the population of Scotland now view much of the print and broadcast media with greater scepticism and suspicion than ever before.

But it’s not too late. Social media is still heavily dependent on mainstream journalists breaking original stories. The newspaper industry can rebuild trust, by fearlessly exposing wrongdoing and corruption in high places, and piercing the arrogant with a fair and unflinching scalpel, given just cause. People will turn to the journalist who has the courage not to run with the pack. And they’ll pay for quality that isn’t buried away in the impenetrable jungle of a billion web pages.

I don’t think anyone should celebrate the troubles of the “mainstream media”. If it died off tomorrow, Twitter would start to dry up by Wednesday.

Hopefully, people will start to realise they are running out of things to get hot and bothered about – and start to appreciate the critical need for professional journalism in time to ensure its survival.