I KNOW how this will sound but I’ll say it anyway. I loved the Sunday Herald.

I don’t mean I loved working there – which I did. I mean I loved it as a friend, or more accurately, as something like a member of my family. I loved it as a personality, a hugely important character in my life.

READ MORE: Yes, we ARE launching a Sunday National. This is why...

A friend who worked there reminded me once that the Sunday Herald wasn’t “ours’’. It was owned by a company, operated as a business, and we were employees. It wasn’t part of our DNA, even if it felt that way.

I knew that to be true and so did he. Yet neither of us felt it to be true. Not in our hearts. Not when we were in the middle of back-to-back 16-hour shifts. Not when the paper had gone to press on a Saturday night and, rather than go home a group of us regularly sat around the office kitchen talking into the early hours. So many of those who worked there felt the Sunday Herald belonged to us and we to it.

Many former staff members took to social media to share their memories of the newspaper just after it was announced recently that it was to fold.

One rather uneasily said that looking back on his time there it now felt like a cult … exclusive, elitist, divisive.

I suppose it was all those things but somehow so much more.

The idea of the Sunday Herald was bewitching to me from the moment its launch was announced in 1998 and even more so when I was contacted by Andrew Jaspan and asked to climb aboard.

The prospect of launching a new newspaper is attractive and terrifying in roughly equal measures. Having the chance to create something new, to help shape it, nurture it and define it, is something journalists savour.

Scotland at that time was on the brink of a new era. Its parliament was to be re-established, the political landscape was moving in exciting and unpredictable ways, a new country was beginning to shake itself loose from the reactionary forces which had held it back for so long.

The National:

The Sunday Herald front cover on the day it declared suport for independence

Those UK papers with Scottish editions were beefing up staffing levels north of the Border, expecting the new parliament to foster a new political culture and more numerous and more important stories. The atmosphere, for a while at least, was one of change and exhilaration.

There was obviously room for a newspaper which could capture the optimism and excitement of the times, which was exactly the mission Andrew Jaspan articulated to those persuaded to sign up for the adventure.

But launching a newspaper is always a risky business. The Scottish newspaper market was one of the most overcrowded and competitive in the world. Were there enough potential readers for the newspaper being hatched in Glasgow’s Cowcaddens area under cover of a “Project White” moniker?

I was working at the Daily Record when I got the call. When I told the Record editor he gave the new newspaper six months at most.

But I had worked with Andrew at Scotland on Sunday and the experience had been a joy. The chance of repeating it on the new title proved irresistible and I’ve never regretted for a second my decision to accept his offer.

The launch team included several names familiar to National readers, Lesley Riddoch, Pat Kane, Roxanne Sorooshian and David Pratt among them.

The National:

In the Sunday Herald’s first edition, pictured above, Andrew’s leader laid out the newspaper’s lofty ambitions … nothing less than to help form a new nation, more liberal, more self-confident, more outward-looking. A self-important boast? Certainly. Pretentious? Just a tad. But the vision of this first leader column was also brave and inspiring and I believe set down the blueprint which guided the Sunday Herald through years of turbulence, controversy, challenges, defeats and triumphs.

There were, for me, too many highlights to mention. Any account of the greatest moments will unavoidably miss something or someone whose contribution deserves to be marked.

That said, here are just a few of the Sunday Herald’s greatest hits: l The Sunday Herald’s unequivocal backing for the repeal of section 28 of the Local Government Act of 1988, which effectively prevented schools from reflecting homosexuality as a valid “family relationship”.

This marked the first Sunday Herald campaign, putting the newspaper on the right (and victorious) side of a bitter moral argument and pretty much staking out the territory on which the newspaper would operate.

• A report by then investigations editor (and later editor) Neil Mackay which named Stakeknife, the British spy who infiltrated the highest echelons of the IRA.

Mackay’s report was the result of painstaking work and a long fight by him, Andrew and then news editor David Milne to avoid legal action to prevent publication of what was probably our first major scoop.

It also established a certain “derring-do” attitude to publishing difficult stories which continued throughout the newspaper’s life.

• The signing by sports editor David Dick (recently appointed editor of the Daily Record) of Budd Schulberg, the American screenwriter who won an Academy Award for his work on the seminal On The Waterfront, as a sports contributor.

That signing seemed to me to sum up the Sunday Herald’s wildly ambitious attitude and underline the creativity and flair that went into the sport section and indeed every section of the newspaper. Nothing was ordinary.

Incidentally, Schulberg agreed to write his first piece for the Sunday Herald celebrating Muhammad Ali’s 60th birthday because he was a huge admirer of Lewis Grassic Gibbon. Dick, like Gibbon, came from the north-east of Scotland.

When the piece was published, Schulberg asked for three extra copies to be sent to him in America. He wanted to share it with Robert De Niro, Karl Malden (Streets of San Francisco star) and Spike Lee.

The National:

• Our opposition to the invasion of Iraq by George Bush and Tony Blair was another defining moment. We had already produced a 12-page broadsheet special report on the attack on the Twin Towers which I remain immensely proud of and which went on to win international awards.

Our continued scepticism about the arguments used to justify invading Iraq attracted thousands of American readers to our website and offered an alternative view from that reflected in much of the mainstream media.

• The use of the Freedom of Information Act by our investigations editor Paul Hutcheon uncovered a number of controversies which led to high-level political resignations, including those of the then Conservative leader at Holyrood David McLetchie and Labour’s then Scottish leader Wendy Alexander.

Hutcheon went on to write an award-winning series of articles about SNP MSP Bill Walker, who was later convicted of 23 charges of domestic violence.

The National:

• The naming of footballer Ryan Giggs, who had taken out a superinjuntion to stop the media reporting his affair, attracted huge controversy. We argued that the superinjunction was not in force in Scotland and that, although we had no interest in Giggs’s affair, the courts were being used to undermine press freedom. We were supported in that argument by QC Paul McBride, who later tragically died during a trip to Pakistan. Reports that we were about to be sent to jail were thankfully proved to be inaccurate.

• Saying Yes to Scottish independence. We came out in support of a Yes vote in the 2014 referendum in May of that year. Many of our columnists had come out in favour of independence already ... and a special mention here of the late and much missed Ian Bell.

I’ll never forget the outpouring of support from our readers on that day and I’ll never regret taking that step, not least because it led to the birth of The National.

Much has been said and written about our stance. It’s strange to think that if the Sunday Herald had not supported independence the country would have gone into the referendum with no mainstream newspaper supporting a Yes vote. Four years later, I’m still baffled.

The National:

Former Sunday Herald editor Richard Walker in 2009

THESE past few weeks have been a time to look back at those years. A time to work out what the Sunday Herald’s real achievements were, to be honest about its faults, to weigh up its best moments and its worst.

Its history, like that of any newspaper, has many great moments and the odd embarrassment.

Its best moments compare with those of the strongest newspapers I know of. Occasionally it achieved brilliance.

But its place in my heart is due less to those moments than to the long list of those who worked on the paper, people whose commitment was sometimes frightening and whose talent made you believe that anything was possible.

Friendships were forged that will never die. Even now, when we catch up less often and share fewer day-to-day experiences, when we meet it is as if no time has passed and we are back in that kitchen, shooting the breeze, cracking jokes, passing insults, talking about the edition just gone and those still to come.

Except after tomorrow there will be no more editions to come.

It’s been a difficult time for those who worked on the Sunday Herald and who this weekend will watch it sink below the waves.

But amid the sadness there is hope. The Sunday Herald may be dead but its story is not over. Its legacy lies in the newspaper you are reading today and, more directly, with the newspaper you will be reading a week tomorrow.

The National was founded in the jetstream of the Sunday Herald’s support for independence. The referendum vote was lost but the demand for Yes-supporting media was undeniable and unstoppable.

The National and the Sunday Herald share more than a belief in an independent Scotland.

Both support progressive policies, both back social justice, both see independence as means to create a better, fairer, happier country rather than an end in itself. It is the only way to forge the country we believe Scotland can be.

The National:

The Duke of Edinbugh with Sunday Herald launch editor Andrew Jaspan and production editor Roxanne Sorooshian, who is now assistant editor of The National

The National and the Sunday Herald have operated as separate newspapers but in the current circumstances it is time to join forces.

So when the Sunday National launches next week, you will see much that is familiar from the Sunday Herald.

Some familiar faces – including the highly-respected foreign correspondent David Pratt, who has for years reported from the world’s most dangerous places and delivered eyewitness reports through Scottish eyes.

Some familiar visual and design elements which helped the Sunday Herald win so many international design awards.

And certainly the same ethos and attitude … the same commitment to presenting news in an interesting and challenging way, to celebrating Scotland’s contribution to the world, to reflecting a confident nation well able to take charge of its own destiny.

So if tomorrow will be a day to mourn among those who worked on the Sunday Herald and those who read it, trusted it and loved it, next Sunday will be a day to celebrate the story continuing.

We’d be grateful if you joined us.