I WAS both flattered and flummoxed last week. Casually browsing social media while on holiday, I came across the newly published document compiled by The National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) that lists the 238 most respected colleagues in our field.

The list was compiled as part of the NCTJ’s Journalists at Work 2018 survey that was carried out earlier this year. Why the number came in at 238 I have no idea, but it was nevertheless flattering to find myself listed as one of that number, not least given that those Scottish colleagues listed along with myself had been nominated by their peers within the industry.

In making their choice, journalists working in the UK were asked which living journalist they felt most embodies the values of journalism that they respect and adhere to.

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I find it reassuring to know that some of my peers here in Scotland think positively about my work and that of other Scottish colleagues they voted for.

Indeed I’d like to take this opportunity to give my personal thanks to those anonymous folk out there that voted for us.

In light of this it would be churlish for me to say this or that person should or should not have made the list. Suffice to say I thought there were some glaring omissions and in some cases a few jaw-dropping inclusions, given the nomination criteria.

Scottish representation on the list was not inconsiderable when one took into account colleagues not based in Scotland but working elsewhere in the UK.

My main concern over the list was not so much who was included or not, than the fact that a few days after the names were published, the journalism industry online portal HoldtheFrontPage, ran a story about the list entitled, “Regional Editors and journalists named among the UK’s most-respected”.

Needless to say among the 29 or so “regional journalists” mentioned, myself and Scottish colleague Paul Hutcheon were deemed to be “regional” by virtue of the fact we both work for The Herald and Herald on Sunday, long regarded in newspaper circles as regional publications despite being

Scotland-wide titles.

Let me make clear that not for a moment am I suggesting that regional journalism is in any way a second-class citizen. On the contrary, as the list makes clear there are some phenomenal colleagues clearly defined as working in this genre or area.

For me personally, what especially sticks in the craw over being dubbed “regional” is that as a freelance, not only do I write for both Herald titles as well as this newspaper, The National and its sister paper the Sunday National, but for other publications UK-wide and across the world. That the stories, too, that I deal with, as a freelance contributing foreign editor, are almost exclusively international-based reportage, analysis or comment, makes such “regional” labelling all the more irritating.

Whatever one’s personal views of individual newspapers, or what might be deemed to be their respective editorial positions, those titles published in Scotland cater for a nationwide readership.

That’s a nation of more than five million people, hardly the target readership of any regional newspaper, much as any such title – indeed any – would love it to be in these difficult times for the print media.

For years this “regional” identification issue has come up annually whenever I found myself applying for the Amnesty International Media Awards. As a Scot I, like my fellow countrymen and women, were left applying to a separate category from the UK one.

It was as if somehow our own journalistic work by token of being produced for a Scottish publication could not be seen as holding its own among its big city London metropolitan peers.

To be fair, at least in this instance, Amnesty entitled the category “Nations and Regions”, giving Scotland and Wales a nod of acknowledgement as fully fledged nations while allowing Northern Ireland to take its own place in this open-ended category.

Perhaps sensing that political change is afoot in the UK or that it simply wants to avoid the very problem of controversial categorisation that I’m outlining, Amnesty has now simply retitled the category: “Regional Media.”

All this might just seem like benign geopolitical nomenclature, but in these Brexit-strained days such titles and their significance matter more than ever.

Frankly I’m sick of the ease with which this knee-jerk approach prevails towards categorising Scotland in purely regional terms. It’s as if just by being Scotland-based or working for a Scottish publication means you are much more likely to be defined as a regional journalist.

At best it’s downright inaccurate and at worst utterly patronising and condescending.

FOR far too long this has been the norm in terms of how some within a London-based establishment, be it media, commercial, cultural or political, have looked upon Scotland, its talent pool, products and contribution.

Pointing out on Twitter my misgivings about being categorised as a regional journalist in the HoldtheFrontPage article the other day, the response of one wag pretty much summed up that of many others when he opined that it was simply my “misfortune to work for a newspaper in the north of England”.

Over time such a patronising attitude has been much more common and corrosive than many would admit. What’s more there is little sign of it abating in the current political climate.

England has become “jittery and impulsive” wrote Robert Winder, the author of The Last Wolf: The Hidden Springs Of Englishness, a few months ago. Winder pointed out, too, that for the past three centuries (since the Acts of Union in 1707) the English national identity has been so folded into their role as the senior power in the British federation, that they are unaccustomed to self-examination.

“At times condescending, at times complacent, they have rarely needed to question their place in the world,” concluded Winder.

Perhaps it’s precisely because England itself is having to re-examine what it represents and what it wants in these unsure times, that attitudes towards Scotland are hardening.

As long as Scotland remains a regional entity in the mindset of some south of the Border, then the UK’s dislocation will become ever more rapidly apparent.

One can wrangle over the history and semantics ad nauseam but no one is going to convince me many Scots take kindly to being referred to as a region. Region we are not. Nation we most certainly are.