ALEX Salmond and his ministers are to draw up official Scottish Government foreign policy independently from the rest of Britain, Scotland on Sunday can reveal.
The First Minister has decreed that he and other SNP ministers are to declare Scottish Government positions on everything from the future of Nato to the conflict in Iraq, if asked by members of the public.
The major shift in policy is disclosed in an internal memo, leaked to Scotland on Sunday, which changes the way ministers deal with public correspondence. Anyone writing to the Edinburgh administration asking for ministers' views on such "reserved" matters as foreign affairs will now get an official reply, representing the views of the Scottish Government.
All very well, but some foreign affairs are quite complicated. For example, to take a view on how Europe (for want of a better phrase) should react to events in the Caucasus demands careful consideration (although I readily admit that Miliband's blundering about on this matter gives little indication of any thought processes). Similarly, getting 'our boys' out of Iraq without allowing the country to disintegrate may involve some delicate judgements.
And who will advise Scottish Ministers on these matters? Scottish Executive civil servants have no more knowledge of most foreign affairs than any other citizen. I rather doubt that the Foreign Office will be prepared to advise Scottish Ministers.
Furthermore, if Scottish Ministers take an official view on Iran or the Ukraine, they may be asked to justify that view, either in parliament or out of it. They have neither the knowledge or the advice to enable them to do so.