MUCH was made of the recent news that in England couples would now be able to marry in a location of their choice. Nobody managed to notice that there never had been a barrier to doing so in Scotland for religious ceremonies, and none for civil unions for the last 20 years.

If you only ever read the mutterings of ­Unionist commentators or Scottish Tory MSPs and MPs, you might be forgiven for thinking Scotland was some wee social backwater. In fact, despite all the known ­restrictions placed on devolved ­government, Scotland has pioneered many policies with which England belatedly caught up.

A year before the current Scottish ­government came to power we enacted the ban on smoking in public places with only the Tories opposing. Scotland would never accept it cried the naysayers. But we did. And now anyone smoking illegally is rightly condemned as thoroughly anti-social.

Since the advent of the SNP ­administration, the pace of innovation has quickened. The baby box, again ridiculed by the usual suspects, has been a massive success now adopted by the Irish Republic. OK, the original idea came from Finland, but it takes bottle and commitment to drive these things through.

Plus any government which does not cast its inquiring net worldwide to ­ascertain what works, and cherry pick the best ­practice, is not really doing its job. While risking wheel re-invention.

The minimal alcohol pricing policy got a kicking when first mooted, but you’ll not find any health professional, or anyone dealing with the ravages of alcoholism, who thinks it a bad idea. You WILL find scribes scouring the stats trying to prove it isn’t making enough of a difference. Do they get some kind of kick out of belittling their own country?

Scottish students in our universities have no tuition fees, nobody resident in ­Scotland pays for their prescriptions, and free ­personal care has been extended to anyone who needs it. I’m not daft enough to ­suppose the resources always keep pace with the policies, but these are all ­pointers to a country which is in the market for ­creating a more equitable playing field.

Ditto the remarkable doubling of child benefit to £20, even if the effect of this has been diluted by the callous withdrawal of the £20 uplift in Universal Credit. The UK exchequer seems to have perfected the art of taking away with one hand, then doing the same with the other.

And while it took a high profile ­football star with a conscience to prod the ­Johnson administration into extending free school meals to the holidays, they are universally available here for all primary kids from primaries one to five. There’s also 600 hours of funded early learning and childcare.

Bear in mind these were also ­introduced at a time when the Scottish Government was shelling out around £80 millions in discretionary housing benefit to try and offset the appalling bedroom tax.

Another recurring pot shot is the one aimed at Scotland’s new and partially devolved social security system. “It’s not doing enough, it’s not being fully utilised, its computers don’t work” intone those whose mission in life is apparently to bad mouth any home based innovation.

Well facts are chiels that winna ding and since the Social Security Scotland ­legislation four years ago till last March, there have been almost £4 billion worth of payments. Eleven are now ­available, ­seven of which are new and all of which are more generous than the UK ­equivalent.

We have the first government in the world to become an accredited real ­Living Wage employer which is reflected in all new contracts. Adult social care workers will be paid £10.50 an hour according to the 22/23 budget whilst a young carer’s grant was the first of its kind in the UK.

It seems England is now pondering the wisdom of 16 and 17 year olds ­getting the franchise. The introduction here for the Referendum and subsequently all ­Scottish elections caused a fair old ­stushie with people insisting that demographic had neither the experience or knowledge ­necessary.

To which I’d offer this thought; in 2014 the age group in question demonstrated enthusiasm and energy which put many of their elders to shame. How many folk do you know, allegedly fully grown and sentient, who can barely name their MSP? I’m betting you’re running out of fingers and toes.

We have a decent record in empowering our young folk and around a million of them will be eligible for the ­concessionary transport scheme already enjoyed by ­older and disabled Scots.

I recite all this stuff not to suggest we have a pitch-perfect government. We don’t. But its various mistakes needn’t detain us here, since you can bet your life they will be recited in loving detail throughout those parts of the Scottish ­media who positively revel in anything going wrong, and would stick pins in their eyes before admitting something might have been a pretty good idea.

It’s got to the stage where those of us with a lot of contacts in the media almost don’t have to check the byline once we’ve read the headline. We know who gets up in the morning with no more motivation than finding something about which to whinge at length.

Frankly it’s depressing. Many of us have made different journeys to our ­belief in Scottish independence. Some people ­imbibed it with their first plate of ­porridge, others have come from many ­different ­locations on the political ­spectrum.

I’m never dismissive of the latter, being of that tribe myself. And never dismissive of those who hold a genuine belief in the UK union, though I admit to some ­puzzlement as to how they’ve held fast to that conviction in recent years.

However the future chips fall, ­Scotland belongs to people of every political ­persuasion and none. Those who think it useful to attack anyone who has ­counted a different number of angels on their ever handy pinhead might do well to ­remember that.

They might remember too that ­ministers may come and go; what ­matters is a ­communal belief in the direction of travel. If the current touring circus of the Tory succession saga proves ­anything, it’s that the contenders appear to have signed up to every malign initiative ­already ­proposed, not least the ­disgraceful ­Rwandan “deal”.

Whoever wins that race to the bottom, there will not be a brave new world on ­offer. Merely one led by, implausible as that may seem, someone even less fit to hold the keys to 10 Downing Street.

Which brings me back to our own government. I am not a member of the SNP, a condition which will continue to obtain.

Yet I recognise that in welcoming ­refugees, mitigating hostile treasury policies, attempting to devise safety nets for vulnerable children and families, it is demonstrating the kind of instincts which I applaud.

There is much with which I disagree, but the basic building blocks would not ever have been laid down by a Johnson, Patel, Raab, Rees-Mogg, Dorries, Sunak or Truss. The latter are damaged, inferior goods, peddling discredited inhumane policies.

In short, I believe the Scottish ­Government has earned the right to pursue its founding cause. It has ­demonstrated that it can win the trust of more of the electorate than the other ­contenders combined.

It has set itself a very high bar ­suggesting that only a majority of votes, rather than a majority of seats won will indicate that Scotland has finally voted to set itself free and chart its own course.

That said, those of us who share that destination have the option of decreeing it all too difficult, or getting out there and persuading the switherers that this is a country worth loving and worth ­“fighting” for.