LATE in the evening of Friday, June 15, after an opera students’ showcase at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, I was walking west on Glasgow’s Renfrew Street when the glow in the night sky ahead of me become obvious.

“Surely not, again,” was my first thought. I strode briskly up to the junction with Cambridge Street and joined a knot of perhaps 30 equally slack-jawed folk as the first blue lights and red trucks arrived further up the road, and – it seemed simultaneously – the Glasgow School of Art building erupted into more intense flame.

I saw no tears amongst my fellow gawpers; incredulity and horror were more the order of the night. In the summer of 2014 the Charles Rennie Mackintosh masterpiece had still been a working educational establishment and a much-loved venue for an end-of-term showcase that was often the only occasion on which many Glaswegians visited it. Personally, I used to look forward to wandering around the Degree show as much for the opportunity to meet people I rarely saw socially at other times of the year as for the students’ work. But this month’s fire was at a building site, and none of us really knew if we loved it as much yet.

The following morning I was on an early flight to Dublin for the weekend. The news of the terrible destruction of the Mackintosh building followed me of course, and, having seen the fire take hold, came as little surprise.

What was lovely was the reaction of Irish people, when they learned where I was from. As they might if a well-loved Scottish personality had passed away, they expressed condolences. The response was sincere and heartfelt, as well as culturally-aware.

All of which made the reaction at home all the more disappointing. When I returned to Glasgow, the contrast with the ill-informed, reactionary nonsense to be found in the newspapers and on social media was on the cusp of becoming stomach-churning. Before the embers had cooled – quite literally, as the fire service was still on the scene – there was an unseemly rush to condemn both the building and the contractors who had been working to restore it.

Equally irresponsibly, given that there was no immediate guarantee that the walls of the building were not on the point of collapse, others were adamant that complete restoration was the only thinkable response to destruction, the scale of which was at that time quite unknown. It was immaterial what opinion was being expressed (although there was a sad rush to polar extremities), all of them were coming from positions of the most profound ignorance.

And so, sadly, it has continued in the weeks since. There was a news story to be served, but it played a poor second fiddle, when it was mentioned at all – even although there had been a dress rehearsal in the aftermath of the Victoria’s night club fire three months earlier. The issue of what was happening to the other venues and businesses now behind the police safety cordon, or to scheduled events at the Centre for Contemporary Arts, or at the new Blue Arrow jazz club across Sauchiehall Street at the start of its first Glasgow Jazz Festival, or to gigs scheduled for the ABC venue, which had also been destroyed, barely got a look-in. Instead blame was apportioned and speculation ran rampant in an orgy of righteous indignation about “what Charles Rennie Mackintosh would have wanted.”

It is ultimately sadder even than the charred ruin that now stands in Garnethill. Four years ago, the tragedy of the art school fire brought the city – and Scotland – together in shared grief, and gratitude. This summer it is painfully clear that there is no such thing as common ground, or calm reflection, and we are, for the foreseeable future, hell-bent on being a divided nation.