THERE was a teacher in my primary who insisted everyone “had to be friends” with one another – whether we got on, fought, or really had anything in common.

I spent the first 12 years of my life in mid-Argyll. It was a happy childhood and one whose peculiar qualities I’ve found myself reflecting on quite a bit this summer.

There were a little more than 30 of us in the whole school. Kids were scattered in dribs and drabs throughout all seven years.

Our ­catchment consisted mainly of the ­children of estate workers and ­foresters, game keepers and shepherds, farmers and ­gardeners, fishermen and fish ­farmers.

These are all solid jobs for sturdy, ­practical souls. But the school was a ­creative environment – ­encouraging, ­artistic, ­dramatic – as ­culturally diverse in its ­curriculum as we kids were monochrome.

READ MORE: Bute House Agreement has made Greens more popular, says pollster

My contemporaries have gone on to do extremely diverse things.

It’s a credit to my teachers. Some have stayed in the ­community. Others have moved on. They’re nurses and doctors and physiotherapists, ecologists and artists, musicians and civil servants and historians.

But if one thing was sure about Achahoish in the mid-1990s, you didn’t have the ­luxury of disappearing into the crowd. The intimate scale of our shared life meant that there had to be ongoing ­social relations with other people – however ­badly you might have got on.

You had to bury your differences – sometimes only in ­shallow graves – because school, work and social life were fused.

People worked together, kids learned ­together, and folk socialised with one ­another.

I think this intimacy helped ­cultivate a more open-minded attitude to people’s idiosyncrasies. Oddballs were part of the community too – known to be odd, but oddly accepted.

I sometimes wonder if being brought up in this kind of community made me a bit more conscious about how conflict-averse so much of Scottish culture is. We tell ­ourselves we’re a rare people for flyting and slagging.

So many of our ­cultural touchstones celebrate our ability to ­oppose one another, to celebrate our mutual antipathies – but I’ve never been persuaded by itthe cliché.

I don’t think we’re particularly good or comfortable at disagreeing with one another. And this manifests in the fact that when we encounter a real argument about competing interests – Scottish ­politics more often than not reaches for the most extreme and screechy analysis.

READ MORE: Short-term let campaigners stage protest over licensing scheme

We still don’t live out the democratic intellect we sometimes boast about. I say this not just to point the finger. This is a potentially dangerous admission for a ­political columnist – but I’d ­generally ­describe myself as a conflict-averse ­person.

I can put the boot in. In, the boot ­often deserves to be put. But if a problem can be reckoned with, and analysed, and ­addressed through open dialogue – that’s my first preference every time.

The National: Jim Sillars

It’s one of Jim Sillars’s (above) more memorable lines. He argued it was critical for the SNP “to take sides in Scotland as well as ­taking Scotland’s side”.

The extent to which the SNP have been comfortable – or even prepared – to follow Sillars’s ­prescription has vacillated over the years, as has the sides they have taken, and the wisdom of the fights they’ve picked.

One recurring theme of political ­debate over the past few months has been the question: How can we disagree well? Or at least – how can we disagree better? During this summer, Humza Yousaf has been described both as a “people ­pleaser” and has simultaneously declared his ­willingness to “piss some people off” in his choices in government.

We haven’t had far to look in recent days for a bit of public rancour.

The big September political story looks likely to be the Scottish Government’s legislation on the regulation of short-term rents which will come into force at the start of October.

The issue only gained serious political traction long after MSPs actually passed the underlying legislation.

Opponents of the licensing scheme aren’t just congregating outside Holyrood, claiming they’re being “pogromed”, and otherwise howling into the void – they’re powering up crowdfunders, mobilising the media and seeking any legal ­mechanism they can find to block the measures aimed at bringing short-term lets in urban Scotland back under some kind of regulatory control.

What we have on our hands, ladies and gentlemen, is an honest-to-goodness ­political argument, with competing ­material interests on both sides. Refreshingly, in a way, real interests are at stake in the struggle to bring – or block – the housing legislation into force.

The National:

Not every decision is zero-sum – but politics is the business of creating ­winners and losers. And there are ­always ­opportunity costs about where you choose to spend your money and your legislative time.

If prioritising a multi-million-pound coronation seems important to you, then you’re forgoing the opportunity to rip out featherlight concrete from crumbling school buildings. All of this should be obvious, but Scottish politics prefers a broader consensus. It’s conflict-averse – like me.

Which is one reason why the SNP have been attracted to universal benefits. Rich or poor – everyone gets a baby box if they want one. Prescription charges are scrapped for everyone, whatever your ­disposable income might be, wherever in the country you might live. Everyone is entitled to free higher education without upfront tuition fees.

These policies have the political ­benefit of being easily understood.

Instead of bamboozling people with means testing, universal entitlements have a straightforward cut-through.

If you asked the Scottish ­public which ­Scottish ­Government policies they’re most aware of, I’m sure these universals would be up there.

Creating Scottish national ­entitlements also ­appeals to the average Scottish nationalist political imagination. For myself, I think it is important everyone has a stake in the social safety net.

But there are legitimate political ­debates to be had about the net winners and losers these policies create. These investments are sometimes pejoratively written up as “middle-class freebies,” but this critique has none of the real heat – on either side – of the housing debate.

READ MORE: No short-term let applications have been rejected in Scotland

The Scottish Government’s main press line on the stooshie last week came from Housing Minister Paul McLennan. He told the media that local authorities stand “ready to receive applications and the supportive approach is borne out by official statistics, which show many thousands of licences have been granted and none have been refused”.

The implication of this media line, as I’d parse it, is that if landlords are o­verreaching, that the rhetoric is ­superheated, and if they cobble their ­paperwork together on time, they have nothing to worry about.

But this isn’t really true, is it?

Consider this from down the other end of the ­telescope. If the net effect of licensing short-term rental properties in cities like Edinburgh is that every Airbnb in every tenement close across the town continues to operate as if nothing has changed – what exactly was the point of this policy?

People who support stronger planning controls don’t want to hear that every proprietor who asked for them will receive their licensing papers.

There is a palpable reluctance here to do what Humza Yousaf suggested he was prepared to do – “to piss people off”. If the Scottish Government is going to ­pursue wedge policies, it needs to practice wedge politics.

Doing one without the other looks like being reluctant to spend political ­capital – but spending it anyway. One of the more established analyses of the First ­Minister’s psychology is that he is a ­“people pleaser.”

It probably goes ­without saying that this description is not a ­compliment, conjuring up the image of a flaky, needy politician who has ­mastered the art of superficial empathy. I’m not convinced this is fair.

The question isn’t whether you should take sides. You inevitably are taking one. The question is: whose side you are on? In life and in politics, you can’t be everyone’s friend.

You probably shouldn’t want to be. You certainly shouldn’t try to be.