IT’S not hard to find reasons to be downcast these days.

Thanks to Tory mismanagement, the economy is in poor shape with sky-high inflation putting painful pressure on household budgets.

The legacy of the pandemic continues to exacerbate the strain on our public services, especially the NHS. Brexit still casts a long and dark shadow over many businesses.

And while the severity of the climate emergency is increasing all the time, the response of too many politicians is akin to fiddling while Rome burns.

An obsession with so-called culture war issues is too often taking the place of serious solutions to genuinely big problems.

So, there is plenty to worry about, for sure. But, perhaps especially at times like these, it is important to recognise the reasons to be optimistic – and these have not been in short supply over the past few weeks.

Whether here in Glasgow or at the other end of the M8 in Edinburgh, we have been reminded of what an attractive country Scotland is and how much we have to offer.

The UCI Cycling World Championships, hosted by Glasgow, have been an outstanding success, showing yet again that when it comes to staging major events there are few cities anywhere in the world who do it better than our own.

The city looked amazing in front of an estimated one billion viewers worldwide who tuned in to watch Mathieu van der Poel ride to victory in the men’s road race.

The thousands who lined the streets to watch this and other events in person brought a real buzz to the city that even the rain couldn’t extinguish.

And Montrose Street has surely never been so famous as we all marvelled at how effortlessly the cyclists scaled the steep incline that most of us struggle to walk up without getting out of breath.

The road races, mountain biking, track events, BMX racing and para cycling – amongst other disciplines – have delighted crowds.

The 10-day championship will have brought millions of pounds of revenue to the city and boosted the hotels, restaurants and shops that are still struggling to fully recover from the disruption of Covid.

Less easy to measure, but surely considerable, will be the extent to which people have been encouraged to get on their own bikes, with all the physical and mental health benefits that brings.

There is still a way to go but Glasgow, with developments like the South City Way through my own constituency, is becoming a better place for cyclists.

So, all in all the UCI Cycling World Championships have been a massive success – and a real tribute to the hard work of all those in Glasgow City Council and other agencies who made it possible.

Of course, there are downsides, and many will question the value of such events.

There is no doubt that they bring disruption to those who live in the city – road closures, congestion and general inconvenience.

It is important that the council and the organisers of these kinds of event bear this in mind and work to mitigate the negative aspects when playing host in future.

But overall, these events are good for the city, and we should be proud of the positive image of Scotland that they project to the world.

It really does deliver value, both short and long term.

The same is true of the Edinburgh Festivals now in full swing over in the east of the country.

Again, there are – to put it mildly – mixed views about the festivals amongst those who live and work in our capital city.

It can be exceptionally difficult to get on with a normal daily routine amidst the throngs of tourists milling around and the artists handing out leaflets to persuade folk into their shows.

But what the festivals – individually and collectively – do for the economy and reputation of Edinburgh, and by extension Scotland, is immense.

It is no exaggeration to say that during the month of August, Edinburgh is the cultural capital of the world and that is something to be proud of and celebrate.

So, amidst the many challenges the country is grappling with just now, there are also many reasons to be cheerful.

I have focused here on Glasgow and Edinburgh but – as I write – our highlands and islands are also being visited by tourists from all over the world, attracted by the beauty of the landscape, the friendliness of the people, and the reputation of our food and drink.

All of them will take away experiences and memories that will encourage others to visit in future.

And while the summer is very much the highpoint, the attractions are not confined to the current season.

For example, in weeks to come, other parts of Scotland from Wigtown to Irvine will host book festivals of their own.

And, of course, our world-class universities are all year-round magnets for students from all parts of the world.

For all its challenges, many of them experienced by other countries too, Scotland is a brilliant place – and just occasionally it is good to remind ourselves of that.