HIS prose was elegant, perhaps insightful. Andrea Romano, an Italian sportswriter, was this week trying to explain how Scottish football somehow revels in its dismal, dismal record.

Nothing, he said, captured the essence of our national team better than manager Steve Clarke talking, after qualifying for the Euros back in November, of “22 years of hurt and misery, glorious failure and sometimes not so glorious failure”.

Why? “Because collapse after collapse, failure after failure, the Tartan Army has developed its own particular aesthetic of defeat,” Mr Romano argued in Rome’s Il Foglio. “Victory has become a frill, a non-essential extra. The team is often nasty and dirty, ugly even. And that is exactly why it has succeeded in becoming a cult side.”

This piece really hit me, for two entirely opposite reasons.

First, because it was offering a genuinely intriguing – if not necessarily flattering – outside perspective on our national game, arguably our national character. And, second, because it was just a little, well, skew-whiff. In the passage quoted above, and throughout, Mr Romano uses ‘Tartan Army’ as a shorthand for players, not fans. He is not alone. Some continental journalists, even those on the supposedly highly reliable wire agencies, routinely do this. It’s more a funny wee quirk than a real gaffe.

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But it is also a reminder just how damned hard it is to write news and views about other countries and just how frequently we journalists, even good ones like Mr Romano, get foreign things subtly wrong. I know I do.

There are huge barriers, not just obvious linguistic ones, to really getting to grips with another nation’s politics, sports, culture or economy.

We all know this, right? Maybe not. Because some of us, especially Scottish nationalists, are getting weird about foreign reporting about Scotland, claiming it is better than our own journalism.

As somebody who has, on and off, monitored world coverage of Scotland for the last decade, often for The Herald’s As Others See Us project, I find this take more than a little bizarre. So much so I think we should explore where it comes from and what the reality is.

Scotland is making international headlines again, because of our politics, and because our men’s team is back at a major tournament.

The country is, unusually, globally visible; we’re news, something others are talking about. Lots of people, especially in Europe, are wondering if Brexit will lead to the break-up of Britain.

The prospect of Scottish independence is becoming a minor staple of the international diet of news.

Events, like last month’s election or today’s Euros game against England, can generate a lot of content, as journalism gets called these days.

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Some of this gets shared on Scottish social media, usually only if it serves one agenda or another.

Some very online nationalists like to portray foreign correspondents as steely, objective truth-tellers, especially when they stumble upon a story which amplifies a pro-independence talking point.

It’s a neat little rhetorical trick, used, as it happens, around the world. Look, the shtick goes, the unbiased foreigners agree with us.

“So much of the foreign media,” tweeted veteran journalist Ruth Wishart after the Holyrood elections, "seem to ‘get’ what's just happened in Scotland rather better than some of our friends in the south.”

Ms Wishart was, I think, having a dig at some truly terrible takes on Scottish politics in the London press. I don’t blame her. I feel the same frustration myself. But I think her well-crafted barb was off the mark. While there really is some brilliantly incisive overseas writing or broadcasting about Scotland and some abysmally ignorant English commentary, it makes no sense to compare the two; neither is typical.

Ms Wishart’s tweet – and others like it c provoked the usual outpouring of scorn journalists everywhere, not just in Scotland, have come to expect from online partisans of almost any cause. Any legitimate or specific criticism was – as always – drowned out in the Trumpist din about the evil mainstream media.

But are foreign journalists “better”? Of course not.

The mundane reality is that most of what international audiences see and hear about Scotland, whether from London or further afield, reflects routine and often rather pedestrian local reporting.

Where do London’s foreign correspondents – the people who largely cover Scotland – get their news from? Well, mostly, it’s the Fleet Street and Scottish newspapers, the big wire agencies, the BBC and a little social media. And where do they get it from? Scotland.

A lot of what foreigners are reading, listening and watching about our country is very much our news, recycled, simplified and, sometimes, sorry, ever so slightly mangled.

(And the same thing, I am afraid, can be said about the news we consume about other places, produced by our own journalists. We might want to give some thought to that too.)

Sometimes overseas news media will do what we journalists call a “deep dive” in to Scotland, a TV documentary or a long read in a magazine.

These are rare treats. But they can reveal all sorts of things for those of us willing or able to consume them – but not just about us, but about the people for whom – and by whom – the programme or article was made. Foreign perspectives are, after all, foreign. To really see ourselves as others see us, we do have to look through their eyes, not our own, think in their language, not ours, carry their baggage, not our own. We have to “get” another viewpoint. And that might be almost as hard, as uncomfortable, as discombobulating, as reporting on another country.

Attacks on the press can help causes, even if they can have ugly consequences. But, in a mature-ish democracy, they can also look like an attempt to find excuses for failure. The press was against us, say the losers, like football fans blaming the referee for their team’s collapse. As Mr Romano said of Scotland national team, there is such a thing as an “aesthetic of defeat”. And it is not pretty, in politics or in football, at home or abroad.

Our columns are a platform for writers to express their opinions. They do not necessarily represent the views of The Herald.