ANOTHER day, another metropolitan front cover with “nationalism” in scare-quotes. This time, at least, there is the merit of a considerable intellect behind the charge.

The Israeli historian Yuval Noah Harari is the author of Sapiens and Homo Deus – two volumes that together chart the past, present and future of humankind. They are popular enough to sit beneath the crime thrillers in your local train-station newsagent.

On the cover of this week’s New Statesman, Harari warns “how the return of nationalism threatens our future” – a “new world disorder”, illustrated by Photoshops of Trump, May, Jong-Il and Putin. A quick scan of his essay reveals, thankfully, that “Scottish nationalism” has not made it (this time) into his rogues’ gallery. Yet it’s still a strange read.

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At many points in Harari’s sweeping argument, you want to shout loudly, “except for modern Scottish left-of-centre civic nationalism”. Better to be ignored as anomalous than tarred with the wrong brush, I suppose. But there is much to learn here about how easy it is to be erased from elite attention.

Harari’s point is easily put: our most pressing global problems cannot be addressed effectively at the level of the nation-state. And in the current wave of nation-first populist governments across the world – what Harari is calling “nationalist” – that ineffectiveness is only being reinforced. “We have a global ecology, a global economy and a global science – but we are still stuck with only national politics,” he complains. “The only solution is to globalise politics.”

Yet from a Scots-indy supporters’ perspective, many of the “global challenges” Harari believes nationalism can’t even recognise have been, well, considerably recognised – at least in this bit of the world.

Take his first challenge: nuclear war. Harari rightly notes that the Cold War gradually generated inter-governmental structures to manage the ultimate threat. Though the road to their formation was bumpy, they eventually ensured that no single, headstrong country could annihilate the world in pursuing national advantage. Thereby, in his words, “the nationalist genie was squeezed at least halfway back into its bottle”.

We hardly need to labour the Scottish objection. What about national movements and parties of independence, for whom the removal of nuclear weapons from their soil – as a contribution to global non-proliferation – is an article of faith?

Not for the first time in his piece Harari uses the idea of “nationalism” as implying a retreat from global responsibility. Whereas, from our First Minister outwards and downwards, a nuclear-free Scotland is unambiguously advocated as one of independence’s great potential contributions to global peace.

And with those countries who have their feet under the table at the UN, it’s obvious that anti-nuclearism can be a display of national virtue. At the UN earlier this month, 122 nations voted to outlaw nuclear weapons, giving them officially the same pariah status as chemical or biological weapons, and making them a humanitarian hazard whether fired or not.

The vote was boycotted by the usual big-state players Britain, China, France, India, Russia and the US (with North Korea, Pakistan, and Israel straggling along). But this is at least a spectacle of how the pursuit of “national interest” is not necessarily in the “nationalist interest” (and can be in the “global interest”).

Harari’s second big challenge to his increasingly straw-filled “nationalist” target is climate change. “When it comes to climate, countries are not sovereign,” writes Harari, “but are at the mercy of actions taken by governments on the other side of the planet.”

There are hard-nosed reasons for countries to subject their sovereignty to global climate agreements. If any large state unilaterally decided to slow economic growth to reduce carbon emissions, their domestic voters would instantly punish them politically. “In a nationalist world no government will sacrifice itself for the greater good of humanity, as Trump’s actions show”, says Harari.

But why does “nationalism” – the belief that one’s country has assets and resources, natural, human and structural, that are in some way distinctively valuable – necessarily have to be opposed to environmentalism? For example, has it been “nationalist” for the Scottish Government to set the world’s most ambitious emissions-reduction targets in 2009, surpass them six years early, and then set new targets again?

A bit, yes. In a world where entirely new industries and models are being built around carbon-free production and sustainable energy, Scottish nationalists want to display their country’s virtue and smarts in this area to the wider world.

Arguments can be had as to whether the systemic efficiencies of the “third industrial revolution”, as pioneered by Germany under the guidance of environmentalist Jeremy Rifkin, are an adequate response to the more urgent accounts of coming climate change. But if patriotism and “national interest” are maybe more obdurate than some, like Harari, would hope, better that it’s harnessed to compete in a race to the heights than the depths.

Harari’s third and final challenge to perfidious “nationalism” is the disruption of technology. His book Homo Deus lays it out brilliantly. Artificial intelligence and robotics could create “a new useless class of people, devoid of both economic and political power”.

Our digital and biological data could also be crunched by computation and gene editing. This will make some of us utterly predictable and manipulable in our behaviours. Other could seek to be upgraded to “an upper caste of enhanced superhumans”. What, asks Harari, “is the nationalist answer to these menaces?”

Oddly, Harari refrains from providing the obvious negative answer – the return of a kind of techno-fascism, which might well glory in the biotech creation of new tribes and elites. (Alt-right guru Nick Land is the dark tribune of this.) But if we can continue to de-weaponise Harari’s “nationalism” into something more like a “national conversation” or “nation-state consensus”, then it’s pretty clear how nations can – and are already – responding to disruptive technology.

Education, via nationally established languages, is something nations were designed for. And even though we are going through a failure of nerve at the moment, Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence was explicitly (and far-sightedly) designed to educate our children to be creative, empathetic, inquiring humans; whose qualities can not be easily automated or simulated.

Well-run nations are also places that can build agreements around the kind of protections and security their populations need.

It may be becoming obvious that universal basic income, and shorter working weeks, are ways that we can begin to manage – in our communities and our minds – the massive tech upheavals that Harari so brilliantly outlines.

But we’ll be waiting a while if we expect intergovernmental treaties to start these processes. In the meantime nations like Finland, Switzerland, Holland, Sweden – and also, incidentally, Scotland – already possess the confidence, cohesion and vision to kick off such experiments.

Small, educated, garrulous, ambitious, historic nations aren’t the only places where “wise choices about the future of life”, as Harari puts it, can be made. But they’re not bad places to start, and to trigger off global conversations.

Next Monday is the anniversary of Molly and Polly the Sheep – Dolly’s successors from the Roslin Institute, who were the first clones to include a human gene in their make-up. If it’s “nationalist” to think that Scotland may have something of a genius for matching technological advance with ethical consideration – one might say, the wealth of a nation with a theory of moral sentiments – then I welcome the label.

With approval, but surely some irony, Harari concludes by quoting the EU’s constitution: “While remaining proud of their own national identities and history, the peoples of Europe are determined to transcend their former divisions and, united ever more closely, to forge a common destiny”. The EU is an example, says the superstar world historian, of how we can “complement local loyalties with substantial obligations towards a global community”.

This is also the EU that Scots voted 62 per cent in the Brexit referendum to stay within. A vote reinforced by two electoral mandates, generating a majority of indy-supporting and pro-EU Scottish representatives, in both Holyrood and Westminster parliaments. These votes and mandates bluntly ignored by a missile-commissioning, environmentally heedless, techno-exploitative British state.

Nationalists, eh?

Harari’s cover story, The Age of Disorder, is in the current edition of The New Statesman, available at all good newsagents.