The National:

SOMETHING of a catchweight contest really – small minds versus big ambition.

The former will be all a-Twitter at the news the First Minister is the headline guest at an online international festival talking to the distinguished Irish journalist Fintan O’Toole, whose Irish Times employers are the hosts.

They will be even fitter to be tied at the news she has penned several more articles in top European newspapers, talking about independence, and Brexit, and subtly making the case for our future European membership.

The last time one of these appeared there were squeaks of faux horror from the Scottish Tories, evidently shocked that she had taken time out from Pandemica to set out her thoughts in the more influential foreign press.

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You had to laugh (or maybe not) at the same Tories who had squawked that she was spending entirely too much time talking to the nation about Covid, and then fretting that she had also penned a column in her “spare” time, when her attention should have been entirely devoted to the health crisis.

It seems even small minds are capable of holding two entirely contradictory thoughts simultaneously.

There is a very serious, underlying purpose into raising Scotland’s profile both in Europe and internationally. It was no accident that when the American news channel NBC was quoting what it termed “world leaders" that Nicola Sturgeon was one of the tiny number mentioned. That kind of respect and recognition is priceless, and it has to be earned.

Similarly, the ramping up of a presence in the European media is an essential strategy at a time when the Scottish pro-Remain vote has been entirely ignored, and when even the basic devolution settlement is under fire from the scandalous power grab of the Internal Market Bill.

We are in a battle for Scotland’s soul now; a fight to keep her parliament from being sidelined and her European credentials and ambitions from being elbowed out of sight.

We want Europe to keep that light on for Scotland, but we also need Scotland to shine her light into every influential corner.

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There has never been a greater need to protect our hard won national and international profile – our values and our aspirations – from a determined effort by Gove’s little footsoldiers to try and ram Scotland into an ill-fitting British straightjacket.

It is a nakedly obvious ploy and an entirely counter productive one. If they truly want a constitutional future whose hallmark is mutual respect, then they’ll find that trying to hammer one of the partners into sullen submission is not the smartest tactic.

We know Gove’s hapless boss thinks Scottish devolution is a “disaster”. And we know Gove’s Scottish roots are utterly shallow, after a lifetime trying to shin up the greasy Westminster pole.

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This is the man who thought it droll to do a stand up routine at a party conference comprised entirely of stringing together every damning Scottish stereotype he could dredge up.

We will not forget you, Mr Gove. We will not forget how little regard you have for the country where you were born and raised. We will not forget how you knifed Boris Johnson in the front to stop his standing for the job you craved. Or how you then scurried to do his bidding when that particular plot spectacularly blew up in your face.

You remind us, Mr Gove, what happens when Scotland’s sons become small-minded. The First Minister reminds us what can be done by her daughters if they aim high.