ONLY a few short weeks ago the British ambassador in Belgrade travelled to the nearby city of Kragujevac to join with other diplomats, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and local officials in marking the 105th anniversary of the death of the Scottish doctor Dr Elizabeth Ross.

Dr Ross was in Serbia treating victims of the war and the typhus outbreak, of which she became one of the reported 150,000 victims just three weeks after arriving in the country. As Hamish MacPherson noted in this newspaper, she was nursed in her final days by Louisa Jordan, who also died of typhus just a few short weeks later.

It was good to see Ambassador Sian MacLeod use an article in the papers in Serbia to highlight the work of Elizabeth Ross, Louisa Jordan and others. As the historian Hew Strachan wrote in his history of the First World War: “The Serbs suffered the greatest losses in relation to population size of any participant in the war.” Medical personnel scrambled to help in the most appalling and dangerous of circumstances.

Too many from across these islands and elsewhere lost their lives seeking to help others.

The conflict left a deep imprint on Serbia, and to this day it continues to celebrate the lives of those remarkable women. In 2015 a series of stamps was even issued to mark the lives of five Scots women (and one of their English colleagues, Captain Flora Sandes) and their contribution during the First World War. The British ambassador’s residence in Belgrade is even named after one of them. Back in 2015 the then president of Serbia unveiled a plaque at the residence reading: “This building is named in honour of Elsie Inglis, doctor, campaigner for women’s suffrage and founder of the Scottish Women’s Hospitals in Serbia.” Hers is another remarkable story of humanitarianism in the most difficult and tragic of circumstances.

READ MORE: Louisa Jordan's relatives 'very touched' to see new hospital open

We are now in the teeth of the worst pandemic in more than a century. The bravery and selflessness of Elsie Inglis, Elisabeth Ross, Louisa Jordan and others lives on in the courage being shown by health and care staff across Scotland, the rest of the UK, and globally. Their dedication often comes at great cost to them and their families. The death of the pregnant nurse Mary Agyeiwaa Agyapong in Luton and Dunstable University Hospital just last week provides yet another heartbreaking reminder.

The pandemic has come at a significant cost, firstly and most importantly in human lives, but also the economy across the world. The pandemic has been truly global in its impact and so our response must be an international one.

This is no time to be retreating behind walls, halting funding for crucial international bodies, such as the World Health Organisation, or the kind of isolationism all too often present in decision-making around Brexit. We all have a role to play in rebuilding efforts across boundaries.

Trust and confidence will be important factors in those rebuilding efforts. Foreign policy experts are already discussing and debating the impact the pandemic is having on international relations, and a state’s soft power reach will become crucial.

This has already been illustrated by China, which has been quick out of the blocks to send experts in dealing with the virus, as well as sending assistance that has even reached us here in Scotland. They know the importance soft power will play in the post-coronavirus world.

READ MORE: NHS Louisa Jordan boss: Patients should have confidence in new hospital

Scotland has massive and under-used soft power potential and could make a big contribution to those efforts. The historic healthcare links between Serbia and Scotland provide just one example of our nation’s reach across the globe. Anyone who has worked overseas will be aware of those links that can help us win friends in the most unlikely of places. Billy Kay’s book The Scottish World is an excellent illustration of the reach of the Scottish brand.

SOFT power rather than military might will be a crucial tool in policy making to help rebuild trust and relationships. The ambassador in Belgrade appeared to recognise that, and has rightly used these historic links in her work.

Regardless of individual views on our constitutional future Scotland is a foreign policy actor and we must use that influence to argue and make the case for a humanitarian and multilateral response to the crisis and its aftermath.

READ MORE: UK Government plans to 'pursue every possible option' for PPE

The current crisis is an appalling one. It has taken away loved ones too early, with health workers paying a particularly heavy price. They deserve our gratitude. However, the applause alone is not enough. We must look to a long-term response.

We must show ourselves to be responsible global citizens working with others to overcome the damage the pandemic has done.

That means sharing health and scientific know-how and helping those states least able to cope. The local response has to take priority, but we must not forget the value of reaching out beyond our borders. Scotland should be at the forefront of those efforts.

This week the NHS Louisa Jordan opened its doors in Glasgow to receive its first patients, providing more than 1000 additional beds. The naming of the hospital is a fitting tribute to that nurse and all those who gave their lives more than 100 years ago in Serbia.

It is also a helpful reminder of the value of soft power, and those women’s values are as relevant today and they were then.

Jordan and those who served with her were caregivers and suffragettes. They could see the value in working with and helping those overseas.

The values of internationalism, solidarity and humanitarianism that they exemplified are not unique to Scotland. However, it would be a fitting longer-term legacy if we can unleash Scotland’s soft power to promote those values in the years to come.

Stephen Gethins is a Professor of Practice at the School of International Relations at the University of St Andrews

Scotland is in lockdown. Shops are closing and newspaper sales are falling fast. It’s no exaggeration to say that the future of The National is at stake. Please consider supporting us through this with a digital subscription from just £2 for 2 months by following this link: Thanks – and stay safe.