I’VE always thought of the G20 summit as being the global equivalent of herding cats.

Problematic, wildly unpredictable and quite possibly futile, this year’s get together in Buenos Aires is no exception.

Indeed one might go as far as to say it’s a classic, even by the dysfunctional standards we have come to expect from this top grade talking shop.

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I mean let’s face it, for a forum at which consensus is the desired outcome of the day, rarely does anyone attending see eye to eye. Yes, I’ll admit there have been one or two notable exceptions and agreements over the years, but it’s hard to see how this G20 can be anything other than acrimonious.

Rarely can world affairs have been more chaotic and relations between many leaders in attendance more antagonistic than they are right now as presidents and prime minister sit down today together in Argentina.

To begin with there is the growing tension between China and the United States over trade tariffs and differences. Then there is the escalating conflict between Russia and Ukraine, and all this before the pressure to hold Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to account over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The National:

Mohammed bin Salman may well be the topic of conversation among world leaders

Yes, this year’s G20 is set to be a humdinger and oh to be a fly on the wall in some of those bilateral discussions.

With this parlous state of world affairs in mind, perhaps there’s no better time than now to pause and take stock of Scotland’s foreign policy footprint.

And yes, before those dedicated Unionist scribes reach for their keyboards to email telling me foreign policy is a reserved issue let me explain what I mean.

The inescapable fact is that regardless of Scotland’s constitutional future, it has never been more vital that we start to shape how our foreign policy will look in the event of independence.

In the interim too there is an equally pressing need to explore how the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) can be recalibrated away from its Whitehall centric view of foreign affairs. It might even be possible to persuade the FCO for now to embrace the benefits that Scotland brings to foreign policy in terms of soft power leverage at precisely the moment that capacity is needed more than ever.

It’s welcome news then that Stephen Gethins, shadow SNP spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) has secured a long overdue debate in the House of Commons this coming Monday to focus on just these issues.

While right now there is no getting away from the Brexit debate, the danger is that we become fixated by it to the point where we lose sight of other long term policy and strategic concerns crucial to the shaping of an independent Scotland. Our foreign policy footprint is precisely one of those concerns.

As Stephen Gethins has made clear in making his case for Monday’s Commons debate, it would be so wrong to underestimate Scotland’s global brand contribution to foreign policy over recent years, or indeed its still untapped potential.

What, for example, of the clout and leverage of the Scottish diaspora and its significance in terms of reach into countries across the globe?

What too could be done to further Scotland’s example and leadership on climate change as showcased at the Copenhagen Summit?

Even when it comes to the thorny issue of Brexit and our relationship with European neighbours and partners, Scotland’s capacity to act as a bridge in the broken relationship between the EU and UK has been overlooked.

Then there is Scotland’s unique place as a hub for peace building, bringing people together in places as diverse and far-flung as Syria to the South Caucasus.

Two years ago, it was no less than Staffan de Mistura, the then UN special envoy for Syria, who told me during a visit to Edinburgh how he saw the strength of Scotland’s democracy had made it the perfect setting for a new diplomatic push for peace in Syria.

He was of course referring to the creation of the special envoy’s Syrian Women’s Advisory Board and the crucial role that First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and her government played in its formation.

The National:

Beyond Borders founder Mark Muller Stuart QC has made the case for Scotland stepping up on the world stage

Also speaking last year in Edinburgh, Mark Muller Stuart QC, the founder of the Beyond Borders Scotland Festival, made a similar case for Scotland’s role.

“My experiences as an international human rights advocate and mediator convince me Scotland has a real and unique contribution to make in the field of conflict resolution, and in the promotion of mutual understanding between nations and cultures,” observed Muller Stuart.

Writing some months back in the very first of my columns for The National, I remarked that Scotland right now has a reawakened sense of self, something that is now so evidently resonating far and wide.

Be it the refugee and migrant crisis; gender issues; human rights; social justice; environmental concerns, I made the case that on so many fronts Scots are taking a fresh look at where they stand and how they compare to others.

We are, in short, taking stock of our place in the world and how in future we should conduct our affairs in this challenging global arena.

This weekend, as the world marks St Andrews Day, what better moment to begin exploring the debate on Scotland’s foreign policy footprint?

With that in mind this weekend in the Sunday National, Stephen Gethins and other commentators will be laying out in more detail the case for such a debate and some of the issues at its heart, before taking then them up in the Commons on Monday evening.

This, though, is only the start of such a discussion and for it to grow and evolve into clear thinking on what shape, feel and direction a Scottish foreign policy should take in the event of independence it needs input from Scots everywhere. Letters, comments, suggestions, criticisms, let’s get this debate moving.

As the G20 summit shows, the world stage is a fairly chaotic and inhospitable place right now. All the more imperative then for Scotland having a robust and clear-sighted strategy when it comes to recognising where its future stands in terms of its place in the world. We look forward to hearing from you.