AS a journalist who writes primarily about international affairs, I spend a lot of time perusing stories on global issues. Hence, on Tuesday, I came across an article in the online US-based Foreign Policy (FP) magazine.

I wasn’t the only Scot who discovered it, and neither was I the only one who was taken aback by the arguments put forward by the author of the piece. For those unfamiliar with the article, it’s still available to read in full, but let me give you the gist of its premise for the benefit of what I want to say in response.

The piece was entitled Scottish Independence Is A Security Problem For The United States and its author is a man called Azeem Ibrahim, who in his online profile is described as a research professor at the Strategic Studies institute – US Army War College and a director at the Centre for Global Policy in Washington DC.

Ibrahim has several Scottish connections and suffice to say he is well known to many in Scotland preoccupied with foreign affairs. It’s not for me to pass comment on the author’s abilities and credentials, other than to say that these have been the subject of some debate, conjecture and speculation here in Scotland in the past.

What does concern me however is the way in which I and many others believe the article paints a misleading picture of Scotland in relation to the defence and security questions it addresses.

What also concerns me is how its publication has once again served as a reminder of the need here in Scotland to get an accurate portrayal and fact-based debate of foreign affairs, defence and security issues into the wider public discourse, as part of a comprehensive strategy on independence.

The myriad issues of the FP article are too many to deal with individually in depth here, but they centre around the author’s contention that Scottish independence “would be a geopolitical disaster for the United Kingdom, the United States and Scotland itself”. Ibrahim also argues that independence would “deprive the United States of one of its most pivotal allies, an ally [UK] that remains a critical pillar of the United States’ defence structure”.

The vulnerability created by this, adds the author, would serve as “an opportunity for countries hostile to the United Kingdom and the United States, such as China and Russia” given that “the SNP already have uncomfortably close ties to the Kremlin”.

Given all of this, the article’s conclusion is that US president Joe Biden “should use his voice to persuade Scots to stay within the UK”.

I could go on but, as already suggested, it’s easier if readers check the article for themselves. So, what should we Scots make of the article and take away from it? Well, the obvious starting point is that most of it is baloney, based on spurious assertions and driven by hyperbole that is refuted by many established and respected Scottish and global researchers.

The National: Clyde naval base, Faslane

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Of more significance however are two points. The first is the way in which it acts as a sharp reminder of the need in the first instance, especially with independence in mind, to elevate the significance of these issues from without our own Scottish foreign affairs community. We simply cannot afford to allow others, especially those with perhaps negative or even malign intent, to dominate the agenda and debate.

Commenting on social media on Tuesday in the wake of the FP article’s publication, Dr John Macdonald, former director of the Scottish Global Forum, who has researched, analysed, and written about such issues in-depth for some time, laid out what needs to be done.

“Today’s FP piece reminds us, why it’s important that Scottish-based analysts get their work into the public realm, addressing issues such as how an independent Scotland might fit into the existing architecture.”

Macdonald reminded too that while lots have been done on the likes of Trident and EU membership, there remains a real deficit in addressing other issues.

Just why the filling of what he calls an “analysis void” has not already been undertaken, is a serious shortcoming in Scotland’s “official” development of a comprehensive political strategy in moving towards independence. So just why then has this not already been addressed, and what moves, if any, are afoot to rectify such deficiencies?

It was Norrie MacQueen another former Scottish Global Forum associate, international relations lecturer at St Andrews and Dundee Universities and acknowledged expert on UN peacekeeping, who hit the nail on the head on social media in answering the first of these questions.

“There’s long been a strand in the Yes movement that sees focus on post-independence foreign policy as a bit effete, ivory tower, ‘second order’ or whatever,” wrote MacQueen.

He flagged up how this could turn out to be a “critical vulnerability in the campaign, if we’re not locked and loaded for it”.

WHICH brings us to the second question of what is being done to better articulate Scotland’s position and strategy? For it’s one thing for the SNP in a document to highlight the shortcomings of the UK Government’s Integrated Review (IR) of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy, but it’s quite another to know in detail what an independents Scotland’s own take would be.

On this at least there is good news at a time when so much of late has been bleak. This includes the release of two new publications one available, and one soon to be, that go a long way towards mapping out where Scotland stands on foreign policy.

The first is Scotland’s Global Blueprint, by Anthony Salamone, and the second is Nation To Nation: Scotland’s Place In The World, by Stephen Gethins. Between them these two studies map out the foreign policy infrastructure for an independent Scottish state – and what our footprint is now and might look like later.

Diplomatic networks, bilateral relationships, foreign ministries – it’s all here. And these are only two of numerous positive moves that also include the likely creation of Scottish think tank institutions that would examine everything from defence and Nato to maritime security and nuclear weapons.

My point is a simple one. This expertise lies on our doorstep and readily available should the Scottish Government and others chose to fully utilise it. Those of us searching for answers should start first within this pool of Scotland’s own existing authoritative talent.

There’s another reason why this is important, and it stems from what is sure to be an upsurge of misinformation the closer we get to the May election and an independence referendum that might come in its wake. In short, we need to get Scotland’s foreign affairs, defence and security agenda out there on our own terms.

Let’s urgently make use of this policy-making talent. It’s only then will we be fully capable of countering the most alarmist, ludicrous and dangerous assertions.