NEXT Friday will be a difficult day for many people, including me.

I had just left university when the UK joined the European Union almost half a century ago.

This fulfilled a long-term political, economic and cultural ambition which cut across politics and parties. It particularly enthused young people and although in the referendum that followed the SNP, seeing Scotland ignored in the negotiations (then as now), recommended voting no, I voted yes.

I have spent my entire adult life as a citizen of a country within the EU and, when European citizenship was introduced in 1992 I was pleased to have that designation on my passport too.

But more importantly membership was and still is about identifying with shared values, achieving common goals and broadening horizons.

It is about being a part of something positive which can – and has – helped an isolationist UK look outward in a collaborative fashion, healed divisions on our continent and spread peace and prosperity.

It is not too much to claim that it has in some ways civilised the exceptionalist insularity of Westminster politics, a fact being illustrated daily as even this early stage of Brexit gives increasing licence to the worst of the blustering and backward-looking boorishness.

Like the majority of Scots I did not vote to leave the EU. Like many with whom I work I have done my best to find a way for Scotland to remain and now I am active in attempting to secure the national independence that will allow our re-entry.

Working as the Scottish Government’s representative in the internal UK negotiating structures I have put forward many compromises in order to try and maintain as much of a positive connection as we can, though each and every one has been rejected by the UK Government.

Friday therefore is a day I did not want, and which I still hoped, at least up until last December, would never come.

But come it has and although it is the intention of the Scottish Government to stay as close as possible to the EU and to rejoin at the earliest possible time, there will inevitably be a period when we are outside, first of all during the transition which Johnson improbably asserts will last for only 11 months, and then as part of what is known as third country.

Leaving the EU will be wrong for Scotland and will damage the life chances and prosperity of everyone who lives here. It will also uncouple us from the dynamic mainstream of our continent and, given the approach of most of our Westminster politicians, steadily and deliberately undermine the values which should be the bedrock of our society.

It is a divisive and detrimental step and for Scotland it is also the antithesis of democracy.

Politics isn’t a bloodless, unemotional occupation. For all these reasons and more Friday will be a sad, dispiriting day for me and for many with whom I work, including my civil service team. Spare more than a thought too for our MEPs who will be the visible sign of our removal from the centre of events. We will grieve with them.

The public and political programme we have planned for the coming days will reflect those feelings but it will also attempt to look forward and to instil some hope even at that dark hour when EU membership comes to an end.

There is, first of all, a surprising learning opportunity to be had.

What I feel on Friday will be, I now realise, very like what staunch and unpersuaded Unionists (and there will be some) may well feel when Scotland becomes independent.

Admittedly the democratic situation will be very different as Scotland will have voted for that change, but we must determine to do everything in our power to mitigate the sense of loss and alienation which some are bound to experience at that time.

That means learning from the absolute and deliberate failure of Boris Johnson and his government to make any such arrangements for those who still reject Brexit and especially for the devolved nations which have all refused to consent to it.

Remembering that, and acting accordingly when we have to, is one possible shaft of light that could beam forward from a very dark Friday night.

A second may be that on Saturday morning Scotland will wake up to the indisputable fact that if you want to be in the EU (as I believe most Scots still do) you cannot remain in the UK.

So decision time and normality comes ever closer.