Herald Editor Harry Reid will hand over the reins of this newspaper next week. Here, in the first

of two special articles,

he reflects on his stewardship and

the challenges

that have

been faced

As editors go (and I am going, as most Herald readers will know) I have not inflicted my own views overmuch, on either The Herald's staff or its readers. I have not awarded myself a column, or written well-puffed articles. Indeed I have confined myself to writing a rare (in one sense) leader. This restraint perhaps permits me to indulge myself with a few farewell reflections.

My approach to editorship has been collegiate. The Herald is an open-minded paper and I have tried to be an open-minded editor, allowing colleagues to express themselves without undue meddling or interference. Some practitioners of the robust ''I'm the boss'' school of editing might claim such an approach amounts to an abnegation of editorial responsibility. But The Herald's key strengths are its self-confidence and its confidence in its readers; we take the view that our readers do not want a strident ''one voice'' propaganda sheet.

And I personally detest the tendency for certain contemporary editors to encourage their staff to get the facts to fit the editor's idea of the story rather than let the facts speak for themselves. News is the staple of any newspaper worthy of the name, and I do believe that The Herald's news coverage is more thorough, accurate, and fair

than that of any other paper published

in Scotland.

As for comment, I have sought to maintain the paper's liberal tradition, established in modern times by Arnold Kemp and carried on by George McKechnie. Sometimes this has gone against my own opinions, which are probably more conservative than those of the paper. But then the paper is not the plaything of any individual and if, say, a strong pro-European Union line has been established (and it has), then my own personal scepticism is insufficient reason to tinker with that line.

Very occasionally I have been uneasy about the policy we have collectively decided, as when the Section 28 brouhaha was developing. But the dangerous stridency of the anti-repeal campaigners soon made me realise that The Herald's editorial approach was correct. There is much moral degradation around, but most of it is caused by heterosexuals not homosexuals. Just this week a major NCH survey showed that violence, drugs, family breakdown, and bullying are the main threats to Scottish children. These are the issues which should be the concerns of those who genuinely want to protect and care for our children.

Then there is the vexed - just why it should be quite so vexed I do not know - question of our future constitutional arrangements. The Herald has been for many years, and remains, a Unionist paper. We have been careful to be fair to the SNP, however, and that in itself has caused outrage in some quarters. Senior SNP figures like Salmond, Swinney, and Russell are not just good politicians; they are responsible politicians.

It would have been easy for the SNP leadership to have wrecked our new Parliament early on, to have looked for and fomented spurious quick-fire conflicts with the Westminster Parliament. They have not done so; they are intent on making the Parliament work, even if that is not to their immediate tactical advantage. They have eschewed opportunism but they have had little credit for it, and that in turn reflects badly on most of the Scottish media and on the other Scottish political parties.

When I took over the reins from George McKechnie in February 1997 we were on the threshold of a momentous year. First there was the watershed General Election which swept New Labour to power; the devolution referendum quickly followed. We campaigned vigorously and consistently for a yes-yes vote but we were careful, as ever, to keep news and comment apart, and indeed the leaders of the no-no campaign congratulated us on our balanced and thorough news coverage.

The Scottish Parliament was duly delivered but during the build-up to the first ever Scottish General Election in 1999 I had by far the most problematic period of my editorship. Certain background figures in New Labour objected to our coverage, claiming that we were unashamedly pro-SNP and that the paper was ''unworthy''. A six-figure sum of political advertising revenue was withheld from The Herald while large sums were spent on the Scotsman and Daily Record. During this shoddy debacle (which is recounted in detail by my colleague Murray Ritchie in his excellent book Scotland Reclaimed) our owners, SMG, held firm and I shall always be grateful for that.

(I should point out here that the late Donald Dewar was not involved in this unfortunate episode. He did from time to time express ''affectionate exasperation'' - his phrase, not mine - when he was discussing the paper but he remained to the last a good friend of The Herald, the paper he had grown up with. The entire staff were devastated by his tragic death, and we have lost a fine man and a fine politician who never pandered to or patronised the Scottish people who came to love him.)

The Scottish Parliament has had, on the whole, a bad press. Yet it is - and this is the essential point - an infant parliament in a very old and a very difficult country. Most new parliaments are serving new countries. They grow up and mature together. The time to come to a considered assessment of how our parliament is doing will be during the second Scottish General Election, in 2003. I think it has begun reasonably and the Parliament is clearly doing better than the Scottish Executive, which has had an uneasy start.

One specific area where the Executive has not performed well is in its fraught relations with Glasgow. Taking a long perspective, The Herald's home city has been a colossal plus for Scotland - indeed modern Scotland would hardly exist without the contribution of Glasgow - but the current problems of this city with its artificially constricted boundary cannot be rehearsed often enough. It has been haemorrhaging people for half a century. As recently as the 1970s, the city's population was 900,000; now it is barely 600,000. The migration is easing, but the exodus continues nonetheless.

The late Frank McElhone MP - one of the most decent MPs I have ever known - always said that one of Glasgow's greatest difficulties had been the departure of so many of the ''virile working class'' to the New Towns in the 1950s and 1960s. Not a politically correct phrase, but he was right. And now we have the stark indices of urban despair: almost half the city's population live in a designated area of deprivation. More than half of the city's council tenants rely on income support. Almost half of its primary school pupils receive free meals.

Every evening there is a mini-diaspora as the city's movers and shakers, its managers and executives, move out to their comfortable homes in the suburbs and the outlying commuter villages and the other towns and cities beyond. This is not the case in the capital, where so many of that city's professional classes live within the city boundaries. The Herald is not immune from Glasgow's ''evening exodus'' syndrome and indeed I have been part of it myself. There are however some propitious signs. The current civic leadership is the best for many years. Lord Provost Mosson is proving an outstanding ambassador for Glasgow. He has an engaging, no-nonsense personality which blends well with that of the council leader Charlie Gordon, who is feisty and abrasive. It is an open secret that the two men did not always see eye to eye in the past, but they are in different ways very able politicians and

they now make a formidable double act. And there are some exciting projects in the pipeline. The Glasgow Harbour development, so ably adumbrated by Tom Allison, and the Science Park which will be created adjacent to The Herald's old headquarters in Albion Street, should revive key areas in the city.

These and other experiments in urban renewal will help to bring in the type of residents which Glasgow so badly needs. (It is difficult to write in those terms without old-fashioned practitioners of class war accusing you of being patronising and without champions of other parts of Scotland accusing you of whingeing.) The point is that if Glasgow is to mount a sustained assault on its myriad problems it will need to do so from the base of a more integrated urban mix, and with goodwill and support from elsewhere in our small and at times acutely parochial country.