I ALWAYS believe it is worth being candid that independence would require a fundamental transformation of how Scottish institutions interact with the rest of Europe and the wider world. Making Scotland into a state would require the development of full EU and foreign policies of a breadth and depth never seen under devolution. Relabelling what exists now would deliver only a small fraction of what would be needed.

The Scottish Government operates eight representative offices. In my Scotland’s Global Blueprint report, I recommend a diplomatic network for an independent Scotland of 110 missions worldwide. The EU Council has more than 150 preparatory committees. The Government currently participates in none of them, since Scotland is not an EU member state.

In short, statehood would demand a significant evolution of our politics, policies and institutions in respect of our role in the world – involving government, parliament and all of us as interested citizens.

The first step to a productive debate is to recognise the difference between European relations and international relations. If Scotland sought to join the EU, and subsequently became a member, the EU would be an integral part of Scotland’s constitutional order. EU affairs would be domestic policy, not foreign policy.

In the Global Blueprint, I argue a Scottish state should adopt a values-based foreign policy that combines values and interests and appreciates their interconnection. The cornerstone of credibility for such an approach is aligning what the state does at home with what it says abroad. In addition to advancing positions on peace and human rights in the world, Scotland should further peace and human rights within the state. A values-based foreign policy is not about pretending Scotland is perfect. In fact, Scotland should learn as well as share. It should accept valid criticisms from others and be honest about its own failings.

The realities of multilateralism

Alongside the foundational principles of the state, a Scottish foreign policy should surely be built on multilateralism and the rules-based international system.

As it happens, both would be essential to ensuring Scotland’s own sovereignty. Yet, I fear that a notion has taken hold in our public debate that declaring support for these concepts is somehow sufficient. In truth, multilateralism is not a path of ease or convenience.

If an independent Scotland wanted to be a values-based and multilateral actor in the world, it would have to work hard for its principles.

It would need to invest political, diplomatic and financial resource in sustaining the United Nations, upholding international law and addressing global challenges.

Success would often be transient. Broad consensus across mainstream politics and within society would be essential to underpin those moments where Scotland faced costs for standing up for its values.

Commitment to multilateralism is not an excuse to ignore developments in the world or difficulties associated with them. Scotland would not have to adopt the securitisation approach to foreign policy commonplace in Washington, reducing nearly every situation to risks and threats – and I would not recommend it.

However, we could not be blind to the realities of international politics or how they affected our values and interests.

Today, one of the most significant, and disturbing, global questions is whether Russia will invade Ukraine in the near future. Other Russian actions outwith Ukraine, including disinformation campaigns and interference in democratic elections, are also troubling.

Given the circumstances, it should be obvious that, with a values-based foreign policy, Scotland would not be in a position to entertain warm and light-hearted relations with Russia at present. We can hope for positive change, but we must live in reality.

The majority case on foreign policy

My clear impression is that a healthy majority of independence supporters would want Scotland to join the EU, to join Nato, to have a close relationship with the United States and to stand up for common values in the world, including in respect of Russia. I also believe that the majority of the Scottish public, regardless of how people would vote in a future referendum, would want the same if Scotland became a state.

Some propose alternative paths on European and foreign policies with independence. Various offers include unreservedly positive relations with Russia irrespective of its actions, a minimal connection to the United States rooted in distrust and disaffection, and remaining outside the EU based on a values-free approach concerned only with trade.

It is their prerogative to make those arguments. Diversity of opinions is not a problem. Rather, my great concern is that the majority case on foreign policy is currently not being made strongly or loudly enough. Separately, the argument for EU membership is being made consistently, but only in general terms. Much greater detail would be needed on how joining the EU would support both Scotland’s values and interests. At present, the foreign policy debate linked to independence is skewed. In the absence of more regular and fuller advocacy of the majority case, the alternative positions are often overrepresented and unchallenged. For the SNP’s part, its group of Westminster MPs carries an inordinate burden of taking party policy – pro-EU, pro-Nato, pro-Atlanticism – and making it real on global issues today, not at a hypothetical date of independence.

The National:

The party is fortunate to have them. Alyn Smith (above) and Stewart McDonald are among the small number of serving politicians who have a thorough grounding in international relations and a cogent vision for Scotland’s role in the world (regardless of whether people agree or disagree with that vision). Without their interventions, our foreign policy debate would be even more lopsided.

The role of the Scottish Government

Yet the SNP Westminster group should not have to make the majority case on foreign policy largely on its own. It is time for the Scottish Government, wider Holyrood actors and others in the independence mainstream who support that case to speak up for it much more in our political conversation. In particular, Scotland’s foreign policy debate will only be rebalanced when the government – including all its members at political level – articulates its own existing positions more robustly.

One would be hard-pressed to locate the last time a Scottish Government minister breathed the word “Nato” in public, let alone voiced proactive support for the alliance or substantive positions on its activities. The arguments for Nato membership, which 21 of 27 EU members share, are open to be made. Only eight of Nato’s 30 members host nuclear weapons, so such hosting is manifestly not a condition of joining. Norway and Denmark are active members of Nato and committed to its aim: ensuring collective security through political and military co-operation.

In modern geopolitics, Ireland’s neutrality is an illusion and Scotland attempting to emulate it would be risible. When Russian military aircraft approach Irish airspace, the RAF (ie Nato) intercepts them. If Ireland faced a direct military threat, the US, the UK and the rest of Nato would come to its aid.

The simple question for a Scottish state is whether it would be a contributor to European security or a bystander.

Moreover, if an independent Scotland intended to be a valued EU member state, it would contribute to the EU as well as benefit from it. On relations with Russia, it would listen to its fellow members most affected.

Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania understand Russia and its facets better than anyone else in the EU. The Baltic states do not accept Russia’s actions targeted at Ukraine and other democracies (including them) – just the opposite. They argue for a strategic approach which recognises Russian foreign policy for what it is. The Scottish Government should vocally back their case.

I have long found it remarkable how little the Scottish Government talks publicly about the relationship between Scotland and the United States, outwith brief, high-profile moments of existing public attention.

If Scotland became a state, relations with the US would be crucial, ranging from US support for Scotland’s admission to the UN to future bilateral trade and investment. The Government should be much more open about our current close co-operation with the US and how it is mutually beneficial. It should also be diligent in ensuring Scotland remains a bipartisan subject in Washington.

The need for the majority case

The current state of our foreign policy debate produces two significant negatives for Scotland. First, our public conversation is distorted because the majority case on foreign policy – backed by many independence supporters, those who could be convinced on independence, and even those who do not want independence but would have views on the future of our country after a Yes vote – is not adequately represented at present.

Second, the relative silence of our Government on core aspects of external affairs makes it more difficult to establish a credible foreign policy under independence. For the public, it would be bizarre to watch the Government leap from barely speaking of Nato or relations with the UN to instantly become an eager Nato supporter and outspoken advocate of a close relationship with the US post-independence.

Refraining from building the rationale for those foreign policy choices in the present would make it more challenging to sustain a broad consensus for them in the future.

Everyone is entitled to their own view on how Scotland should relate to the world with independence. It is time, however, for the majority case on foreign policy to be made more clearly, more passionately and more often. Supporters of that majority vision now need to speak up.

Anthony Salamone is managing director of European Merchants, the political analysis firm in Edinburgh