IN the newspaper world where I’ve resided for a few decades, we guard our customs and practices jealously. Part of this is rooted in an esprit de corps which binds us all – colleagues and rivals – alike.

In our loftiest fancies, we believe ourselves beholden to a higher calling underpinned by “speaking truth to power” and that an attack on one is an attack on us all.

There is a degree of veracity in these, although the fuller reality is that we’re all riven by professional jealousies and ancient tribal feuds.

Nevertheless, I regard all of my fellow journalists as a second family. And, as with most families, while I may bitch and gossip about the work of other journalists, I try to defend them if they’re being disparaged from outside the tribe.

And besides, such is the eternal churn of personnel in our largest titles that you usually end up working with all those whom you once considered to be rivals.

Another reason why we get all coy and conspiratorial about our knobbly old trade is that we like to foster an element of mystique about what we do. And that the less the public knows about what proceeds in our great halls, the better. We think it makes us seem pale and interesting at social gatherings where most of our fellow guests are uninitiated civilians.

“So you’re a journalist, eh?” Often, when we’re in the mood, that’s the invitation to relate some far-flung anecdote, polished in the course of many exaggerated re-tellings to convey the impression that we’re living on the edge, man, and are feared by captains and kings.

Others at the table might have more money and fancier homes, but we’ve got the ear of The Duke, A-number-1; the Big Man.

Best just to indulge us by nodding vigorously and laughing in all the right places. It keeps us benign and sociable.

As a newspaperman, I was interested in the recent social media micro-drama involving the SNP MP Alison Thewliss and Paul Hutcheon, the esteemed political editor of the Daily Record.

Ms Thewliss has always struck me as one of the “normals” of Scottish politics, by which I mean she’s sincere and genuinely cares. Lately, she had been taken on as a columnist by that fine tabloid organ.

On this occasion, though, fuelled by a sense of injustice, she chose to make public a private communication between herself and Mr Hutcheon.

This terse exchange revealed that she’d been asked by him to make the ongoing SNP leadership contest the subject of that week’s column.

Ms Thewliss had ignored this entreaty and ploughed on regardless with a piece about the UK Government’s asylum policy.

She was then informed by him that her services as a columnist were no longer required. She seemed to think it unreasonable of the paper to make such a request.

“I had never been told what to write until this weekend. I wrote a piece on the Asylum Ban Bill, because it is topical and important. I’ve been binned.”

Now, I hate to break this to Ms Thewliss (and she’s by no means the worst of those politicians masquerading as writers) but she wasn’t hired for her sparkling and effervescent prose. The Record gave her the gig in the touching belief that, very occasionally, she might provide their readers with ringside insight into her world.

The UK’s small boats policy is indeed wretched, but it’ll still be an issue for many more months to come.

In Scotland, the only game in town right now is the SNP leadership contest. The paper was entirely right to remove her from their roster.

However, as I hold Ms Thewliss in high regard, I’ll offer her some free advice going forward. If she were to become a columnist for another paper, it’s usually a good idea to do what the editor reasonably asks you to do. Newspapers aren’t democracies.

In many years of writing columns for various Scottish and UK titles, my editors occasionally asked me to drop the dead donkey that week and write about something else entirely. Their judgments were always spot-on. Which is why they got to become editors. Just saying like…

Of course, such regrettable incidents could be avoided if newspapers simply ended the practice of giving well-paid professional politicians these platforms.

I’ve encountered less than a handful who are any good at writing. It’s like finding that your dentist is a full-time electrician who pulls teeth as a side-hustle. Joanna Cherry writes well and, er, that’s about it.

Of all those I’ve encountered, only Adam Tomkins, Brian Wilson, Joan McAlpine and the incomparable Dorothy-Grace Elder really knew what they were doing. The rest of them often had me seeking the healing balm of a large Bacardi after wrestling with their doggerel.