PASSIONATE as I am about achieving an independent Scotland, I confess to having a few concerns of late. It’s not that I’m having doubts about our independent destination, far from it. If anything, the case for Scotland being in a position to govern its own affairs becomes more compelling by the day. The latest polling, an arrogantly dismissive UK Government and of course Brexit all confirm that.

What gives me cause for concern is not the case for independence, but instead the way in which some who support it have allowed themselves to become embittered. Indeed so disgruntled and contemptuous have some indy supporters seemingly become, that arguably they run the risk of having a negative effect on the very cause they so dearly espouse.

Already I can hear the clamour of voices and rumbling of dissent within their ranks preparing to denounce me at best as some kind of “Unionist apologist” or at worst an “England-supporting quisling”.

If the use of this kind of language sounds intolerant then that’s because it is. It’s also precisely the reason why I have concerns over the way some within the movement go about challenging the opposition they encounter.` It’s hardly news that there are those – especially on social media – who express their desire for independence in no uncertain terms. I, too, have done so.

What’s worrying, though, is the increasing level of vitriol deployed rather than reasoned argument.

To such people everyone who criticises Scotland is the bad guy. Scotland can do no wrong and its case for seeking independence is unimpeachable. I fully get where much of this political frustration comes from and God knows there are those opposing Scottish independence only too willing to dish it out.

But indy supporters must take care if they themselves are not to be tainted and indeed tactically undermined by such toxic negativism.

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Above all they must ensure that right now, of all times, when the cherished goal of self-determination is as close to Scotland’s grasp as it’s ever been, that we do not alienate those within our own nation whose support we need to make independence a reality as opposed to a wistful patriotic pipe dream.

As this newspaper’s resident world-watcher, I’ve often warned about the dangers of Scotland being inward-looking or self-obsessed with its own politics to the point of being blinkered.

Just as I’m passionate about independence, so, too, have I always maintained that to fall foul of such a myopic nationalism runs the risk of diminishing Scotland as a place where a natural internationalist heart and vision lie.

So obviously – in purely strategic terms – it also runs contrary to our independence cause, leaving Scotland’s proud record of civic nationalism vulnerable to accusations that in reality it’s no different from those grotesque nationalist manifestations that revel in a them-and-us distinction where hatred and intolerance is spawned and thrives.

During Scotland’s last referendum on independence the world by and large looked on with envy, admiration and not a little wonderment. In the main our case for leaving the Union was made eloquently and constructively with very little rancour and resentment.

As my Irish colleague Fintan O’Toole, that most astute of political commentators, observed, the language of tribal nationalism back then was “starkly unspoken” and the debate “remarkably civilised and thoughtful”.

The National: Fintan O'Toole praised the atmosphere of the first independence referendumFintan O'Toole praised the atmosphere of the first independence referendum

As an Irishman he noted, too, that here was Scotland with the opportunity to acquire independence “without murders, without civil wars, without partition, without a toxic bitterness being passed on through generations”.

As someone who has spent their working life reporting from overseas, I could not agree more with his observation.

Working on the assumption that an independent Scotland is indeed forthcoming, it’s important that those campaigning for it recognise the importance of ensuring we bring as many of our citizens along with us on the journey, not alienate them on its course.

Energies need to be focused and used constructively, not dissipated by lashing out unnecessarily with unforeseen consequences or making enemies where sometimes certain allies lie.

The petty mindset of “I’m more indy than you” needs to be countered. So, too, does the tendency to castigate anyone who dares question the Scottish Government. Time might also be better spent in other ways than by constantly fixating on BBC “bias”.

Of course, criticism where it’s due is vital to making the case for independence, but near-obsessive bickering and point-scoring at a time when it’s all about getting the numbers to secure independence is an indulgence Scotland can ill afford right now.

That such negativism prevails more now when the chance of independence lies within Scotland’s grasp than it did back in 2014 is a worrying thing. Back then, of course, Brexit was not quite bearing down with the force that its poisonous wave brings today.

It's going on two years ago now that fellow columnist and foreign correspondent Patrick Cockburn, of The Independent, observed that “Brexit is English nationalism made flesh”. What makes the new English nationalism so dangerous post-Brexit is that “it is deeply felt but incoherent and comes with little self-knowledge”, he wrote.

For Scotland therein lies another of Brexit’s dangers – its capacity for unleashing an English nationalism that in turn alienates Scotland more than ever. It’s to be expected that some in Scotland angered by the toxicity thrown up by Brexit, and the “little Englander” mindset that often accompanies it, will want to respond in kind.

The danger in that, of course, is that we become no better, moving into our own divisive “little Scotlander” mode, whereby if you are not with us you are against us.

Scotland has already made its position clear on where it stands regarding our place in the European family and should stick by it.

Already Brexit has created a prevailing mood of exclusion, intolerance and increasing bitterness in England. This is not what Scotland wants or needs, so let’s make sure we are not politically blindsided or drawn into any inglorious Brexit finale.

If, as all the signs suggest, the Union is fast approaching its denouement, this is the moment for Scotland to guard against being tainted by the bitterness or squabbling that largely prevails right now in England. We all need to keep our eyes firmly fixed on what really matters and the ultimate prize – independence.