TSKHINVALI is a long way from Edinburgh. More than 2000 miles away, in fact. Nestling in the South Caucasus mountains, the capital of South Ossetia has been a scene of grim conflict for centuries, most recently in the warring between Georgia and Russia in 2008.

It has struggled with its own status and identity as part of Georgia. It has its own language spoken by a population of around 53,000 with a further half a million over the mountains in Russian North Ossetia.

The Republic of South Ossetia is recognised as a state by Russia, Venezuala, Syria, Nicaragua (hmm) and (for some reason) Nauru.

Joseph Stalin was born with the Georgian name Ioseb Jughashvili barely 22 miles from Tskhinvali in the Georgian city of Gori. His actions in carving up identities and peoples across the vast expanse of the Soviet Union reverberate now in so many awful ways.

One of the most remarkable experiences of my life was giving a lecture at the Tskhinvali State University when I was a young nationalist MSP. I recognised their right to seek to self-determine but went on to talk about the civic national identity in my home country 3000 miles to the west.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon: PM is scared she would lose indyref2 vote

There were fearsome men with guns and young , bright-eyed students. An ancient man, who turned out to be their national poet, rose when I finished speaking and started reciting Robert Burns’s John Anderson My Jo in his native tongue. Many decades before, a Scottish soldier had travelled by and stayed long enough to help him translate the entire works. How about that?

We enjoyed a massive feast in a decaying castle in the mountains, the lights flickering as the power was lost and restored. As was traditional I had to do a turn and persuaded a few hundred of them to join in the chorus of Green Grow The Rashes. Some vodka assisted. I always remember that moment when Burns season commences.

In my own researches for the trip I discovered that the area was at the southern tip of the ancient region of Scythia. The Scottish historians among you may notice that this gets top billing in the 1320 Declaration of Arbroath, the entreaty from Scottish nobles to the Pope to recognise their nation. It begins: “Most Holy Father and Lord, we know and from the chronicles and books of the ancients we find that among other famous nations our own, the Scots, has been graced with widespread renown. They journeyed from Greater Scythia by way of the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Pillars of Hercules, and dwelt for a long course of time in Spain among the most savage tribes, but nowhere could they be subdued by any race, however barbarous. Thence they came, twelve hundred years after the people of Israel crossed the Red Sea, to their home in the west where they still live today.”

The National:

I pointed this out to the South Ossetians. They seemed to like the link.

In those days it seemed a claim to historic lineage mattered in the recognition of statehood. It goes without saying, I hope, that for Scotland today, it doesn’t anymore.

READ MORE: Andrew Wilson: Why Scotland should aim to legalise cannabis

When we are ready to retake our place in the world community of nations along with 192 other members of the UN, a new more modern declaration may be appropriate.

The joyful point that it could recognise is that the 21st century people of Scotland are not one tribe from anywhere, rather a combination of people from 192 nations of the world and more.

I hope this is true – someone should check and if it is not, we must sort it.

We sign up for the identity of a forward-looking “Scottish” element as only one of many strands of whom each of us are as individuals. Redefining what that Scottish strand will mean for the next generation is one important part of making the nation all that it can be.

What is the common purpose and vision for our society, culture, economy and country beyond the starting declaration? In other words, the ends to which we regard independence as a means?

If you look at the accompanying chart you will see an expression of what politicians on all sides in Scotland now appear to agree is a huge challenge and opportunity – population.

Do nothing and we will have more and more people in retirement dependent on fewer and fewer people of working age. Population growth is an immediate and urgent imperative for the wellbeing of all.

The very good news is that across the political spectrum we all agree. This is a hugely important building block that means we can aim to emulate the best performing small countries in the world. We now must address the challenge of doing what we all agree we must, turning words into deeds.

Brexit presents a clear and present danger to a situation that was already problematic. In the report of the Sustainable Growth Commission we outlined a raft of measures we believed must be taken quickly. Others will have more and maybe better ideas.

But part of the job is in continuously making clear that a nation of all nationals is who we are and who we wish to stay.

The National:

We know from election studies that a majority of people born in Scotland voted Yes in 2014. If we are to progress, we therefore also know that our tone and approach needs to be attractive to everyone that has made Scotland their home.

In words and deeds, we must recognise what people feel and how they react to what they hear from friends and families across our islands and beyond. This is hugely important.

And our tone to one another on our own side matters hugely too. The tide has turned in our favour in a very significant way. We must not let the Judean People’s Front self-destruct along with the People’s Front of Judea. Wise and experienced heads are needed now, along with composure.

And we should also remember that if we succeed, every fellow citizen will have an equal stake in defining the new country we wish to build.

We should do that rare thing in this country of argument and embrace across our divides, celebrating the truth that for all the partisan disputes not one parliamentarian in this nation

wants to place barriers to migration to this country and most if not all want to break them down. What a great starting point for our declaration.

Now that fact, I suggest, is a shining light that we ought to beam around a troubled world.