THROUGHOUT the 2014 referendum campaign, I struggled to identify much of merit on the Yes side. From my perspective, this is what it amounted to: relentless, feral online abuse; Better Together posters violently defaced or ripped down; perfectly decent No-supporting politicians and activists screamed at in the street; the most mediocre of independence-supporting politicians treated like movie stars; godawful poetry, songs and plays; a worrying blindness to hard economic fact; a gallusness built on hot air and naivety posing as intellectual seriousness. It was horrible, and, yes, it gave me the Scottish cringe good and hard.

It was all the more difficult to access empathy or see the good heart in separatism when Unionists were dismissed by Alex Salmond as “Team UK” in contrast to Yes voters’ “Team Scotland”. This bracketing of us as somehow lesser Scots was a base attempt at delegitimisation and, given nationalism’s dark history, inevitably rang alarm bells, a fact that seemed to give our First Minister and his fervent fans little pause for thought. It was unnerving that the wider movement sometimes came across as one long howl of rage. Its most strident supporters could give the impression that something was missing from their lives – that things hadn’t quite worked out for them and that independence was a revenge for this lack. I remember one Labour campaigner telling me that whenever she walked through an untidy garden to chap a door that was then answered by a middle-aged man who clearly lived alone, nine times out of 10 he’d be a Yes voter. And an angry one, at that.

For us, then, the Yes campaign didn’t feel very civic or joyous. It was the opposite of persuasive. But I know that those on the other side of the argument could produce a charge sheet every bit as brutal – and, to us, unfair and partial - against Better Together and its supporters.

Three years on, I’d like to think that passions have cooled (a little). In part, this is simply a question of time and personnel passing. The Nationalist First Minister is a more thoughtful and likeable sort. Public weariness has, for now, rather sucked the life out of the case for a second referendum. And we have a more immediate existential problem to contend with, namely Brexit.

We have also seen the rise of competing forms of nationalism across the world. In Austria, 31-year-old Sebastian Kurz won the recent general election on the back of anti-immigrant hostility and has invited the far-right Freedom Party to help him form a government. In Catalonia, the separatist regional administration pushed ahead with an illegal referendum, sparking a violent response from the police and driving Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to take control of the area. In France, Germany, Holland, Italy, Poland, Hungary and elsewhere, authoritarian nationalists and populists have seen their support soar. Donald Trump, Steven Bannon and their far-right henchmen have deliberately forced an intensification of racial violence and division on America’s streets.

It’s in this context that Unionists might want to take a fresh and open-minded look at the nature of Scottish nationalism. I recommend reading an essay by Maya Tudor in the new Oxford Government Review, published this week by the Blavatnik School of Government (full disclosure: I’m the Review’s editor). Ms Tudor, a political scientist of German and Indian heritage, draws out the differences between nationalisms that use race, class, religion or ethnicity to establish a tyranny of the majority, and those that do not. For example, she compares the creation 70 years ago of India and Pakistan, the former a homeland for those who opposed colonial rule, the latter as a homeland for Muslims. Communal violence in India is significantly lower today in part due to the inclusive national identity articulated at its founding, she argues, while Pakistan’s “embrace of religion as core to the nation’s definition has by contrast encouraged a legal and widely accepted normative basis for discrimination against religious minorities and increasingly, intra-religious minorities such as Shias”.

Ms Tudor’s cosmic, nuanced view is one that refuses to judge all forms of nationalism as undesirable. “Historically, nationalism has been used to motivate withdrawal from international co-operation, aggression, war and genocide. But so too has it underpinned vibrant movements for colonial independence, the construction of generous welfare states that provide for their citizens and a feeling of solidarity that is crucial to individual identity in the modern world. As countries and regions diversify, the sense of community that nationalism can foster may be more important than ever. It is for this reason that we should seek to emphasise and celebrate inclusive forms of nationalism.”

To see ourselves as others see us. Ms Tudor defines inclusive forms of nationalism as those that “eschew fixed identities and use shared aspirations – often civic or economic ideals – as the basis of their national imagining. Examples of this type of nationalism are rarer and emerged more recently in history”. Only the most bitter Unionist would deny that the SNP’s modern ideal of an independent nation – liberal, pro-immigrant, internationalist – falls into this category.

None of this is to say that an independent Scotland is in and of itself a desirable outcome. There are many good reasons, even amid the buffeting storms of Brexit, to remain within the safer, larger haven of the UK. But it is also important that Unionists gain some perspective about what Scottish nationalism is and what it isn’t. There are headbangers with unpalatable views on every side of the debate, but the vast majority of Scots are peace-loving, tolerant and civically minded. We are all, whether Nat, Labour, Tory, Lib Dem or no party, Unionist or separatist, Team Scotland. When you take a look at the increasingly precarious world around you, you should thank your lucky stars for that.

The Oxford Government Review: Bridging the Gap, is published this week by Oxford University’s Blavatnik School of Government and can be read here: