SO it's Happy Birthday to us. We're 18. All grown up.

Eighteen years ago, as the crime and investigations editor of the Sunday Herald, I was part of the launch team of this paper. Today, as editor, I have the pleasure of leading one of the hardest-working, most talented and dedicated teams of journalists in the business. I joined the Sunday Herald after leaving Scotland on Sunday – a paper which was tired, staid, a stick-in-the-mud, with a Thatcherite line out of synch with modern Scotland. I was intrigued by what I was told by the Sunday Herald's launch editor Andrew Jaspan: that this new paper would be exciting, young, vibrant - in touch with the aspirations and concerns of this great country of ours.

And exciting and young it was: we were the first paper in Scotland to embrace the internet. When we launched we were the only paper in the UK to run email addresses under reporters' bylines. It seems banal now, but it was revolutionary then - we had reporters who actually wanted to engage with their readers. The launch team may have been holed up on the top floor of the Herald and Times' Black Lubyanka building on Albion Street, above the grotty old Press Bar, but we were the first newspaper office filled with shiny green and blue iMacs (remember those?) and it made the team feel that we were really creating something new – which we were.

We were creating a paper that would take positions no other paper either had the integrity or the wit to take: we championed devolution from the start. Not for us any Scottish cringe.

Inevitably, I was told by journalists on other papers that I was making a huge mistake. "The Sunday Herald won't last the month out," they told me. How wrong they were. Many of the folk who warned me the paper wouldn't last, later came knocking on our door for a job, keen to work for a paper they found exciting, fresh and different.

But back when the paper launched, the world was at a strange juncture, and many of the positions we would subsequently take as the years rolled by could never have been envisioned because such a future could not be envisioned. The fag end of the 90s was the era of "The End of History": the Cold War was over, the Third Way as envisioned by Blair and Clinton had seemed to draw all passion from politics which had become a technocratic enterprise stripped of purpose and belief, there was peace in Northern Ireland after 30 years of civil war, and the UK was riding a high cultural tide, toe-curlingly called Cool Britannia.

Within a few years of our launch, however, the attacks on America on September 11 happened, and the world changed forever. Here's an interesting story about the Sunday Herald and 9-11, by way of a quick aside: one Saturday in the summer of 1999, I was asked to ring round my intelligence contacts (I covered terrorism and intelligence stories for the paper). It was a quiet weekend and we had no splash. I spoke to a CIA contact in Islamabad and the best info he had was that he'd heard al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden were planning an attack on America. He added that he'd heard something about planes potentially being used. I took it to the editor. There was some debate among executives about whether al-Qaeda was really that important (some of the team hadn't even heard of AQ back then, and few of the public knew of its operations) but we ran the story on the front page anyway. So, two years before September 11, we, unwittingly, predicted it.

After 9-11 the world entered a tailspin that it has not righted itself from. Soon, the west – or at least America and Britain – were moving toward war in Iraq. With a few notable exceptions, the Sunday Herald was in the vanguard of leading voices against the war. Back then – this was late 2002/early 2003 – we were getting a million readers from America online every Sunday. These American readers wanted the truth, and they had to turn to a Scottish newspaper to give it to them because the American press was failing. Like Britain, the American media parroted and amplified the lies of the Bush and Blair administrations and shamefully helped frog-march the people of the UK and the USA into an illegal war. Today, our opposition to the Iraq War stands as one of my proudest professional moments.

As Iraq turned the Labour Party into a toxic mess, and out of control bankers reduced the nation's financial assets to a playpark for the City of London, we picked up the baton against austerity. What a ghastly manipulation of the truth to make ordinary, and oftentimes the most vulnerable, people pay the price for the failure of super-rich amoral speculators. The poor should not be driven deeper into poverty, we believed, while jail cells are waiting to be filled by bankers.

And then Scotland decided to walk firmly on to the world stage asking this question: "Should we be an independent nation?". It wasn't a difficult decision for the Sunday Herald to take to support that proposition and say, "Yes, Scotland should be independent". We had followed a familiar and similar political trajectory to many of our readers. We are at heart a liberal and progressive paper. We believe in decency, fairness, equality and opportunity. The Labour Party had once seemed to offer the only hope of creating the society we wished to see created, but it imploded under the weight of its lies and duplicity over WMD. The Tories remained anathema in Scotland, and the LibDems sold their soul in the early days of coalition. By the late 2000s, it seemed to us that the SNP offered a progressive glimmer – but like many voters, who put their X by the letters SNP on the ballot paper, we were not nationalist by nature. In fact, this paper remains firmly internationalist in its outlook. However, bit by bit as the grim status quo in Westminster showed no hope of changing, it became incrementally clear to us that independence was key to solving the array of problems that Scotland faced; problems which would never be dealt with adequately by a parliament in London on a radically different trajectory to the parliament in Edinburgh.

And so we became the only paper in Scotland – or the world for that matter (apart from Catalonia, I guess) – which supported Scottish independence. That fact alone should be enough to make the rest of the media in this country blush. We have one of the most crowded newspaper markets in the world, but in Scotland the views of 45 per cent of the population were represented by just one paper - this one. That was good for us, but very bad for democracy and even worse for plurality of the press.

Equally, in the face of the hectoring lies of the Brexit campaign we stood proudly, resolutely European and campaigned with all our hearts to remain in the EU. And our position to this day is simple: we want to see an independent Scotland within the European Union, as that is where we believe the best future lies for the people of Scotland.

It does, however, become wearying when people routinely describe the Sunday Herald as "an independence paper", as if that is all we do. Of course, we support independence but we do many, many other things which serve this country and journalism well. Calling the Sunday Herald an "independence paper" is like going out for a great meal and only talking about the coffee. The world is our palette. We have always been a home for great investigative journalism. We've jailed terrorists and corrupt politicians, we've sent our reporters to the most dangerous places on earth to tell you what is happening in the world's most fearsome trouble spots. Our lifestyle reporting is second to none – think of our food coverage, our TV coverage. Then there are our commentators – the best in the business, no question.

We are, quite simply, all about old fashioned journalism: we hold power to account no matter who wields that power – left, right, nationalist, unionist – political position does not colour our reporting, we scrutinise the government and those who can control your life, we reflect the world around us, and we try to tell the truth every time we lift a pen or put hands to a keyboard. Journalism is an art, not a science, and mistakes are made, but when they are made in the Sunday Herald (and to be honest with you, that's rarely) we apologise and amend.

In the era of fake news, authentic, honest and truthful journalism like ours is more important than ever before. That is what our hard-working team strives every week to bring you: the truth. The truth is our work, first and foremost. But we also try to entertain you. Reporting the truth can be a grim business, and we've always prided ourselves on a good old fashioned Scottish sense of humour, so amid the dark, we try to give you plenty of light too. A good Sunday newspaper should make you gasp – in horror, in anger, in shock at what is happening in the world – but it should also make you smile at times too, at the bite of our commentators, the wit and intelligence of our writers, and the sheer zest for life that ordinary Scots have and that we reflect in our pages every week.

It's been wonderful standing up for Scotland and standing up for you these last 18 years, and we hope you continue spending a few hours in our company every Sunday as we grow older with you. Today, rather than you raising a glass to us on our birthday, all of us here at the Sunday Herald are raising a glass to you, because it is you, our readers, who have made the last 18 years possible. Thank you for your loyalty and thank you for believing in us. We believe in you too.