I ONCE recall a journalist colleague half jokingly compare the domestic and foreign news gathering ends of any media organisation as being akin to the shallow and deep ends of a swimming pool.

While I’ve always felt it a rather unfair observation, I nevertheless got his point.

On the surface, at least, domestic affairs can appear comparatively more transparent, accessible and less daunting than the often opaque, foreboding depth of issues that swamp foreign shores.

Most of us, after all, are probably better versed in the intrigues and machinations of UK-wide politics, than we are, say, those of the Middle East, Latin America or elsewhere.

Most of us, too, probably associate those responsible for representing our interests in the fields of, say, foreign policy or defence as being heavy-hitters or big beasts in terms of their political skillset and pedigree.

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Nothing could be further from the truth, of course, when it comes to the current UK Government, which has seen Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary and, up until his crash and burn this week, Gavin Williamson as Defence Secretary.

That both these men were appointed to high office and permitted to play in the deep end with the real grown-ups of international affairs frankly still beggars belief.

But then again, incompetency and self-serving individuals have long been the defining characteristics of Theresa May’s prime-ministership.

Whatever claims those around the PM have made in acting for the “good of the country”, almost always the opposite has been true.

The National: Gavin Williamson was another UK minister not fit for purposeGavin Williamson was another UK minister not fit for purpose

Sure, May sacked Williamson, but not before untold damage was done and yet further evidence thrown up of another Cabinet minister not fit for purpose.

The appointment of Penny Mordaunt as Williamson’s replacement is yet more proof, should it be needed, of how poor the calibre is of politicians now being appointed to high office in the UK.

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Let’s not forget that it was Mordaunt who, during the Brexit referendum in 2016, repeatedly lied that Turkey was about to join the European Union. God only knows what similar manipulation of the truth we might expect when she gets to grips with running the Ministry of Defence.

Williamson’s sacking should give us all pause for thought here in Scotland as the country looks now towards another independence referendum.

Politicians fit for purpose, with that willingness and ability to serve the wider cause not oneself, must prove commonplace here in Scotland, rather than the rare commodity it has become these days in Westminster’s corridors of power.

In any post-independent Scotland, too, there will be the pressing need for those political leaders and others who can perform cannily and credibly in the deep end of foreign policy and international affairs.

Already I hear the clamour of those who will say that I’m putting the cart before the horse with that last observation.

First and foremost, achieving independence should be where our efforts must concentrate right now they cry, and are right do so.

But preparing the correct political ground for both an independence referendum campaign and the political climate which subsequently prevails should it be successful are, it seems to me, inextricably connected.

Earlier this week writing in The Herald, my colleague Neil Mackay made a powerful case for five key issues the Yes movement must address if it wants to win well in any forthcoming independence referendum.

Bemoaning the over emphasis on gesture politics, Mackay pointed to the tone of the debate, outreach to No voters, confronting difficult questions, independence being bigger than the SNP alone and the need to have more than a marginal win, as all being crucial to the outcome.

On almost all these points you will find no disagreement from me with the possible exception of the marginal Yes win. A big majority would of course be preferable.

In fact, I’d go even further and say not only is it imperative such issues are addressed during referendum campaigning, but that simultaneously there is a need to identify those whose political talents are best equipped for nurturing Scotland after it chests the tape of independence.

The likes of foreign policy and defence remain reserved issues for now, but obviously it would be a very different story were Scotland its own master.

Just who are those individuals, politicians and others with the skillsets and talents to ensure that we operate well on a diplomatic and international footing and don’t end up hamstrung by the equivalent to Westminster’s cabal of self-servers like Johnson and Williamson?

That such talents sit within our nation’s ranks goes without saying. If not already under way then the process of urgently identifying and seeking out those capable of setting the pace, tone and strategy for the future is almost as imperative as preparing for the independence referendum campaigning itself.

Those likely candidates will have a passion to make Scotland a better place. They should be open-minded and have an understanding of the wider world as well as the skills of a canny and effective communicator and negotiator.

They most certainly will not come from within the ranks of those who at every turn criticise the First Minister for overseas “jaunts” and a failure to get on with the “day job”.

What, after all, is the job of the Scottish Government’s leader if not sitting down with counterparts to discuss trade, global climate change and other pressing issues that affect us all as citizens of the world?

In taking Scotland forward we need those hungry to foster good relations and establish our reputation as a reliable, fair, reasoned and dependable nation – not one characterised by bitterness and that minority who view Scotland’s independence aspirations almost entirely through the distorted lens of ridding ourselves of “English rule”, and imagining “quislings” at every turn.

The independent Scotland that so many of us desire should have no truck with such skewed and divisive views.

In our politics now and in the future, at both the domestic and overseas end, we need citizens willing to broaden their horizons and level-headed leaders who can help them make that happen. Now is the time for calm heids and canny long-term thinking.

As for lessons in how not to go about it, we need look no further than the current Westminster government.