ONE of the most remarkable features of the just-ended leadership debate was the total absence of a discourse around the foreign policy of an independent Scotland. A few, a very few, appeared much vexed by the lack of a debate on the issue, but rightly none of the candidates rose to the bait.

That there was no debate on foreign and defence policy was good news. Firstly because there was, we can safely assume, little difference between the candidates on these issues. Secondly, crucially, Scotland nestles in one of the most stable geopolitical regions in the world and every dug in the street knows it.

Let me explain.

I’ll start with a historical anecdote relating to the public reaction to the decision of the Blair government to go to war with Iraq. Geopolitics – so international relations academics will often say – tends to be an elite pastime, until the public perceive that the stakes could really impact on their lives. The new year of 2003 was one of those times.

READ MORE: UK Government plans could lead to 'homeless' Afghan refugees

More precisely, Saturday February 17, 2003 was one of these moments when a leader of the SNP led more than 100,000 of his fellow Scots in an anti-war march from Glasgow Green to the SECC.

The geopolitical consequences of this madcap adventure were blindly obvious to the owners of countless dogs that day.

The foreign affairs and military think-tank community, on the other hand, were in a bit of a bind. Many were rather muted and circumspect in their analysis at the time, while some others were quite invested, literally as well as metaphorically, in the enterprise. Less to do with where their critical faculties led them, rather more to do with potential sources of future funding.

The public, however, did not have to have a degree in international relations to understand why the war was being embarked upon or the likely geopolitical debacle that would unfold.

That widespread understanding of the basic determinants of geopolitics was on display that frosty sunny day and John Swinney, then leader of the SNP, by leading the march helped amplify the Scottish public mood.

READ MORE: Rishi Sunak quizzed over referendum route as Humza Yousaf becomes FM

Some Scottish politicians of a Unionist persuasion believe, and in some cases others appear to be pumped up to believe, that because Scotland is situated in a “dangerous and uncertain world”, the issue of our defence policy in particular deserves “serious” attention and, inevitably, “serious” money.

I would understand that if Scotland shared a border with an aggressive neighbour. Such circumstances would profoundly shape Scotland’s basic geopolitical detriments. However, even a cursory look at a map shows that Scotland’s basic geopolitical reality is rather different.

However, the UK military industrial complex manufactures much more than hardware – narratives too are a crucial part of their stock and trade.

The truth is that yes, some regions of the world are very, very dangerous. I have a great deal of sympathy for those who share a border with Israel (and yes, I believe it has a right to exist), or a border with a resentful Russia, governed by a man who Tsar Alexander III would have been proud to call his son rather than that ineffectual fool Nicky.

I get all of that, as does almost everyone in the SNP. Hence the non-event of a leadership discourse around these issue.

The label of “geopolitical sleepy hollow” is one Scotland should wear as a badge of pride. The recent leadership election, what was discussed and what was not, is empirical evidence of it. And for those who think otherwise, anytime anywhere.

Bill Ramsay
via email