IS Private Frazer your spirit animal?

Scots have often traded on their reputations for a pessimism. Folk baulk at the cliché of Scots being miserly these days but we often seem more comfortable leaning into the glass-half-empty side of the character.

It doesn’t celebrate despondency and depression exactly – more of a black pride in weathering a downfall and ­trudging ­resignedly on. Sometimes this aspect of the Scottish character is more stoic.

Think Andy Murray – allegedly morose, ­actually just undemonstrative. ­Sometimes the Scottish curmudgeon exhibits a ­passionate kind of dispassion.

He’s ­Douglas Dunn’s “virtuoso concert pessimist”.

For this, we can ­probably blame capitalism, Presbyterianism and the weather – but it does mean Scottish life has a particular relationship with negative thinking.

One of the best expressions of this ­attitude comes from Alastair Reid (1926-2014).

Born in Galloway, the poet had an itinerant life across America and Spain, ­sustained by his writing for The New ­Yorker. In one of his best-remembered poems, Reid wrote about the experience of a sunny day in Scotland.

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For those of you living on the west coast, I’m conscious this has been a ­hypothetical experience this summer. In Glasgow, a quick trip to the shops this July has called for a diving bell and shark repellent.

Reid wonderfully captures that feeling of a bright unexpected, unearned day ­breaking under a clear sky – the kind of mild ­summer weather only people at risk of ­Seasonal Affective ­Disorder in August could ­experience with a joy calculated to baffle folk from the ­balmier belts of the world.

Reid describes it as the kind of “day ­peculiar to this piece of the planet when larks rose on long thin strings of ­singing and the air shifted with the shimmer of actual angels” and “greenness entered the body”.

The sunstruck Reid is brought ­rudely down to earth on returning to town by “the ­woman from the fish shop in a ­radiant ­raincoat".

“What a day it is!” he says. She beetles her brows at his cheery greeting.

The poem ends: “Her ancestors raged in their graves as she spoke with their ancient misery: ‘We’ll pay for it, we’ll pay for it, we’ll pay for it!’”

Reid gave this poem the title “Scotland”.

The poem represents the fishwife’s ­pessimism as a hand-me-down, an ­inheritance – and not a particularly ­lovely one. But the sentiment he captures is commonplace here, even in the absence of ancestor ghosts. I caught myself thinking the other day that this drookit July and August are the price we’ve paid for June.

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We need to talk about the impact of negativity on public life in Scotland, which currently seems full of spirits of ­abnegation, capable of leeching the life out of the brightest room.

Take one example from the last week. “Roads closed as cycling event reaches ­final stages,” the BBC Scotland report read. You can’t fault the headline on ­accuracy. Streets were indeed shut.

The world biking championships were ­indeed winding down in Glasgow, having hosted 2600 elite cyclists from 120 countries, as well as almost 8000 journeymen cyclists participating in associated events, and local, national and international visitors who came to Scotland to participate.

This might just be one dodgy ­headline dreamed up by a bored BBC sub-editor ­towards the tail end of a long ­sporting event – which in fairness, was ­characterised by other much more ­neutral ­headlines – if it wasn’t tediously ­predictable and entirely in keeping with the reflexive negativity of great swathes of the Scottish media about anything and everything happening in this country.

How many national broadcasters would then solicit an hour’s worth of moans at the start of the competition about one of their cities hosting a globally significant sporting event?

BBC Scotland somehow found the time.

Is the fact a donut shop is temporarily closed a national news story?

For ­readers in Scotland during the UCI Cycling World Championships, the somewhat surprising answer was – yes. As a result of private contractors getting the jump on ­blocking off roads in central Glasgow before the times they’d agreed with the council, one city centre donut shop was unable to open for one day.

One tabloid described the story as “shocking,” claiming that “fans are ­devastated” by the closure – as if there weren’t umpteen other ways for ­aspiring diabetics to get their sugar hit for a day without wobbling into the path of ­professional cyclists chasing one another up Buchanan Street at a hundred miles an hour.

For what it’s worth, I think it’s often justified to cover the ­sometimes-overlooked sides of major corporate events which ­descend on cities and towns, sometimes with questionable benefits for any of the people who live and work there. Reporting on the Edinburgh Fringe, ­rightly, now ­routinely spotlights the ­impact of ­exploitative venues, pervasive casualisation and the machinations of ­enterprising (or price-gouging) landlords.

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Such stories can illuminate the differences between an event’s appearance and reality, highlighting the gap between what PR bods claim an event is about and its lived values and impact, or even just ambivalences about them which wall-to-wall cheerleading ignores. The coverage of the World Cup in Qatar in 2022 is another case in point.

But we’re a world away from public ­interest reporting which highlights a host regime’s abusive human rights record and the fact stadiums were built on the backs of exploited migrant workers.

There’s something peculiarly Scottish in this ­entirely grim determination to turn any major event into a bad news story.

Listen. I’m as indifferent to competitive cycling as any other sporting activity. The interest of it all escapes me. I’d rather put sea urchins in my shoes than visit a velodrome or stand around waiting for the pack to sweep by.

But for those who like that sort of thing – that’s the sort of thing they like. I’ve enough imagination to ­understand the positive significance of this event – and events like it – for the ­civic life of the country without prioritising a girn about my commute being marginally more complex for a few days.

Most people, I reckon, agree with me on that. So why is it why have such a toxically downbeat media culture?

Political journalism is a cynic’s business. And there are plenty of reasons to be sceptical about politics.

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But healthy ­scepticism – the outlook which says you should trust but ­verify – has escalated into a wall-to-wall cynicism and extravagant negativity in the Scottish public which is not only ­unhealthy – it is ultimately counter-productive.

If we want to grow a political culture which is more at ease with constructive criticism – then the last way in the world we’re going to achieve this is by indulging in the constant, extravagant, exaggerated negativity which has persuaded itself this corner of northern Europe has the worst education, worst healthcare, worst trains, and worst transport links in the world.

Policy ideas are described as ­“controversial” – as if controversy about political choices is somehow A Bad Thing. Even consulting on policies which provoke organised disagreement are ­represented in much of the Scottish ­media like the end of days.

One of the big cultural lies Scots tell ourselves about ourselves is that we ­enjoy an argument. But we don’t. Rational ­argument rests on a significant degree of agreement between the two sides. ­Instead, our public life primarily consists of shouting past one another.

There are some Unionists who have – consciously or unconsciously – ­internalised the idea that if the Nats want to aggrandise the jurisdiction of devolved government and project a confident, outgoing idea of what Scotland can do – then opponents of independence must do the opposite.

This kind of framing will ­inevitably make people feel defensive about ­potential problems faced by our public services and the real failures and perverse ­outcomes of political choices at all levels of government.

Criticism can be constructive. But constructive criticism needs to be channelled towards making things better. Scottish public life currently has no such culture. The Scottish scandal-o-meter is ­constantly turned up to 11, ­addicted to stupid hyperbole, small-minded, ­parochial and miserabilist. It doesn’t have to be this way.