WE are living through an extraordinary period in history. From Brexit to independence, we face political choices that will define life in Scotland for decades. We are in the teeth of a global pandemic that has killed thousands of our fellow citizens and racked up public debt to a level unimaginable a year ago. Every global catastrophe in history has changed the world. This one will be no different.

We have a bullish China, an America that is weaker than at any time in our lives, a looming climate change disaster and, on top of all that, an internet that is changing everything: how we shop, how we work, how we consume news.

The public sphere has been transformed in the last two decades. Survey after survey show public trust in institutions, including politics and the media, is lower than it has ever been. Conspiracy theories run wild online. At a time of rapid change in our economy and political direction this widespread distrust matters. If society cannot come together to discuss how we move forward, if it can not even agree on any common truths we are in deep trouble.

More and more people get their news from social media sites that feed them a constant diet of stories that reinforce their existing political prejudices.

Digital spaces are mobbed with bullies and extremists, who have poisoned public debate with hysteria. Facebook has replaced journalists with algorithms – and become fabulously rich and powerful while taking little responsibility for its content.

The Herald is different. We are committed to providing fair and impartial coverage of Scotland’s affairs and we support no political party. We know our readers are intelligent people. We know they are able to read and digest pieces that they fundamentally disagree with because our role, as Scotland's quality broadsheet, is to provide a platform for balanced debate.

Now, balance means something different in our news and opinion pages. In a news story, our reporters will always seek balance and comment from, as it were, both sides.

Our opinion pages operate on different rules. They are a place for staff writers and contributors to put forward ideas about how we reshape our country and its institutions. How we improve our education and health services. How we cope with the challenges of rapid technological change, of climate change.

These pieces, by their nature, are not balanced. A pro-independence column or a pro-union column will come to very different conclusions, however, we will always aim to balance our coverage over the course of the week.

We will also never allow a writer or contributor to claim as a fact something that is false. If we fall below that standard, we investigate and, if appropriate, apologise or run a retraction. That might not seem that radical but in a world where 'commentators' fill the internet with outlandish claims and downright lies we believe it's pretty important.

Scotland faces multiple challenges, from many directions, and cannot rely on politicians to find solutions on their own. We all have a part to play and we stand ready to play our part.