This afternoon the House of Commons will meet during recess so that Members can pay tribute to Jo Cox.

Doubtless the speeches will be eloquent; Parliament usually rises to such occasions, particularly sombre ones, but this column is expressly not about last week’s tragic events.

Indeed, it’s by and large something I planned to write anyway, not least because it’s the last I’ll produce before Thursday’s European referendum. Nor is it predicated upon a certain outcome; it stands regardless of victory for Leave or Remain.

Rather it concerns the nature of political debate in this country (or rather countries) which, never particularly edifying, has in the past few years taken a nosedive. Of that there now appears to be widespread acknowledgement, with several political grandees urging a collective halt to the politics of hate.

This is to be welcomed (though I fear it’s too little too late), but at the same time there’s a lot of selective remembering going on, particularly in Scotland. Some commentators appear to believe this only took hold in the last couple of months and, conveniently enough, only in England.

Writing on Saturday, the former First Minister Alex Salmond contrasted the EU referendum, “a largely poisonous and negative experience”, with the Scottish independence referendum during which, he claimed, “only one side was projecting the politics of fear”.

This account of 2014 would no doubt find widespread agreement among fellow travellers. Indeed, the SNP strategist Ross Colquhoun recently tweeted that those comparing the two referendums had “refused to engage with [the] positive and inclusive Yes movement”. As a consequence, these refuseniks were “unsurprisingly clueless” as to how joyous and uplifting the whole thing had been.

Of course it’s all relative. There are two dominant accounts of the independence referendum, one in which it was uniformly awful and another in which it was a “festival of democracy”. Both are caricatures and the truth, as ever, lies somewhere in between. And while it’s important not to overstate its negative elements, equally it’s vital we don’t airbrush them out of existence.

We all had our own experience of those hectic years, but the notion that everything was sweetness and light doesn’t stand up to much scrutiny. I’m talking about heated public meetings (and I attended several), the trashing of expert opinion, simplistic, utopian promises and yes, “scaremongering” on both sides.

And there was also hate. I remember being at a Calton Hill independence rally a year out from the referendum and being approached by another spectator who didn’t look very friendly. Following some initially anodyne exchanges he turned nasty and a fist was raised. I don’t remember what he said because I was contemplating that clenched bundle of tendons landing on my face. He then strode off but returned a few minutes later for another round of hate.

I said nothing about this at the time because I didn’t want to overstate its significance, not least because there were such incidents on both sides. But at the same time I don’t like being told – by Alex Salmond or anyone else – that such things didn’t happen or that somehow it was of no import. That’s not how it felt at the time, nor the continuous online bile, not all of which came from marginal, anonymous figures as some like to pretend, but occasionally from local SNP officials and councillors.

But then as Alex Massie observed so eloquently in a blog last Thursday, events tend to have a multiplier event. If prominent (and, crucially, trusted) politicians keep telling their supporters that journalists are “biased” and somehow pandering to some mystical vested interest, then some will start to believe it. And if you also tell them they possess superior “Scottish values”, and that arguments to the contrary amount to “talking Scotland down”, then they’ll believe that too. And once that frame is set, irritation at certain journalists and political opponents (which has existed for time immemorial) can easily give way to something with a harder edge.

Recently the First Minister tweeted a link to an article by the Guardian’s Marina Hyde, praising it as a “great piece of writing” which she hoped would be “read widely” before this Thursday’s referendum. It was indeed a typically fine piece of prose, and included a paragraph about “expert” becoming as “dirty” a word as “Westminster”, and a “shift to post-factual political discourse” feeling “rapidly under way”.

Presumably Nicola Sturgeon approved of that paragraph, which I found rather difficult to digest given that as a prominent Yes campaigner she (and many others) cannot really escape their share of responsibility for all of the above having taken root in Scotland a few years before it did in the rest of the UK. In 2013-14 it was the past and present SNP leaders blithely dismissing swathes of expert opinion inconvenient to their arguments – now it’s Michael Gove and Boris Johnson.

I’d like to believe there’s a quantifiable difference between the two, but no one can tell me what it is beyond sheer blinkered tribalism. All the worst aspects of the independence referendum (and don’t get me wrong, there were many positives) have now resurfaced: not only the delegitimisation of facts and figures, but opportunistic accusations of “bias” and even the cry that arguments to the contrary amount to “talking Britain down”. That was the last refuge of scoundrels two years ago, and remains so today.

To repeat, few are completely free from blame for the corrosive effect all this has on public discourse. Better Together clearly had its faults (though compared with Vote Leave it looks positively saintly), extensively charted in a new edition of Joe Pike’s book “Project Fear”, but the last few days have demonstrated that many of those involved in Yes Scotland seem incapable of acknowledging their own.

There are honourable exceptions. In his Sunday newspaper column, the former SNP spin doctor Kevin Pringle acknowledged his share of the blame, as indeed must many scribes. And in a recent video blog the searingly honest rapper Loki critiqued the “told you so” reaction of some fellow Yessers to last week’s tragic events. “It’s different,” he also tweeted ironically, “when we do it.”

But it isn’t different, although there is a question of degree: Britain Stronger in Europe isn’t (nearly) as bad as Vote Leave, and Better Together wasn’t anywhere near as strident as Yes Scotland often was. No one emerges from this wretched referendum with much credit, not the two main campaigns, not Labour and not even the SNP, which continues to warn of right-wing Tory apocalypse while pretending to be “positive”.

The depressing thing is I see no way back, whatever the soothing words that’ll flow over the next few days. Even if there’s a brief hiatus it’ll doubtless return, during the next referendum on independence or Europe, probably even more hate-filled than ever before. Want a glimpse of the future? Just look across the Atlantic.