FORMER SNP Westminster defence spokesperson Stewart McDonald has called on the leadership candidates to set out their vision for foreign policy under devolution.

In a new paper, published by think tank Reform Scotland, McDonald challenged their candidates to set out their stall on international relations and show their understanding of the “growing links between domestic and foreign policy”.

The report Think Like A State, Act Like A State, published on Friday morning, argues that while Scotland is a member of the UK, there should be a strategy in place developed to work under devolution.

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McDonald argued there should be protections put in place to come with the “increasing military and economic power of authoritarian regimes”.

The paper sets out a number of policy questions for candidates Ash Regan, Humza Yousaf and Kate Forbes, including asking for future Scottish Government administrations to assess the level of threat posed by hostile foreign states and how Scottish institutions could counter it.

It also argues that the next SNP leader should be “steadfast in their support” for the EU and Nato, and that they should work with Scottish financial institutions and universities to tackle “malign actors”.

The report alludes to claims that numerous Chinese restaurants were purportedly being used as covert policing outposts, including one in Glasgow.

Candidates were also asked to set out their vision for international development, and make commitments to Scotland’s defence manufacturing sector.

The National: McDonald released the report on Friday with questions for the leadership candidatesMcDonald released the report on Friday with questions for the leadership candidates (Image: Stewart McDonald)

McDonald said: “"The three candidates to be first minister have an opportunity to engage in a mature, national debate about how the Scottish Government will deal with global and European issues that have such great impact on the Scottish people.

“The new first minister must demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of this country’s place in a world where states are more insular actors on the world stage and dominant geopolitical entities increasingly weaponise their economic prowess.

“We can start asking these questions now, and I am today challenging not only the candidates, but the media, to start asking and answering these questions.”

McDonald said it was a “perfect opportunity” for Scotland’s next FM to set out their vision for a flourishing Scottish society that can also be a “good global citizen”.

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He added: “It is vital that the next first minister can author a bold, comprehensive and pragmatic strategy to project Scotland’s interests and values in a world that is ever-changing and more complex and is underpinned by a keen understanding of the interplay between domestic and foreign policy. The moment demands nothing less.”

Chris Deerin, director at Reform Scotland, said McDonald had proved himself a “significant thinker” on military and foreign affairs.

He added: “His call for the new first minister to develop a foreign policy strategy, and for the leadership candidates to explain what this might look like, raises an important issue at a timely moment – one that speaks as much to the future of devolved Scotland as it does to the SNP’s preference for an independent state.

“One of Reform Scotland’s roles is to be a home to a wide variety of voices, offering a range of ideas for discussion among the nation’s wider policy community. We are delighted to publish this thoughtful and provocative paper.”

The National: Deerin is the director of Reform ScotlandDeerin is the director of Reform Scotland

The National contacted all three leadership candidates for their response to McDonald’s paper.

Finance Secretary Forbes said: "If I am elected first minister, I will lead a government that shows people why Scottish independence matters for our place in the world.

“It is not enough for any Scottish administration – and certainly not one I hope to lead - to point out the UK’s weaknesses.

“Instead, I will continue the excellent work of our outgoing first minister in placing our foreign and external policy at the heart of any economic recovery.”

Forbes said if she is elected first minister she won’t “shy away” from working with any UK party that wishes to improve relations with the European Union.

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She added: “Nor will I shy away from calling for the aid not only to protect Scotland’s competitive advantages we have in terms of renewable energy, but to ensure that our future global business leaders are not left behind by the UK’s fecklessness."

Health Secretary Yousaf said: "I welcome this contribution from Stewart who has led our work on foreign and defence policy for a number of years and has been internationally recognised for it.

"Stewart is right that we are at a critical geopolitical juncture and that Scotland, now and when we are independent, has an important role to play as a good global citizen.

"Rejoining the EU and joining Nato as an independent nation is crucial, as is to work with our neighbours on our shared priorities.

"If I am elected I would look to build on the international platform Nicola Sturgeon has given Scotland and work to ensure our foreign and defence policy is robust to respond to current and future challenges."