INFORMED debate on world affairs has never been more important. The past decade has witnessed a gathering crisis over climate change, increasing migration, the rise of populism and seemingly unending cycles of conflict and humanitarian crises around the world.

Of course, the most immediate concern is the global pandemic that has paralysed world trade, done lasting economic damage and so far has resulted in nearly a million and a half deaths.

These challenges are inter-connected and will require concerted international effort to resolve. Scotland has a role to play in this effort.

However, Scotland must nurture well-informed and dispassionate debate on global issues within Scottish civil society. To do this, Scotland needs an institute of international affairs.

This task is performed elsewhere by high-profile institutions such as the American Council of Foreign Relations and the Carnegie Endowment for Peace. These organisations play a vital role in fostering dialogue, supporting research and policy development, and disseminating ideas across the divides that too often separate governments from academia, civil society and business.

At present, UK civil society expertise and advocacy in the realm of international affairs is concentrated overwhelmingly in London, in institutions such as the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House). Inevitably, however, they offer a London-centric perspective and do not always reflect Scotland’s international interests, concerns or priorities.

The need for a Scottish institute of international affairs exists quite independently of the constitutional question that hangs over both Scottish and British politics. For it is undeniable that, while Scotland does not have its own foreign policy, it certainly has a wide range of international interests.

These interests exist regardless of where legislative power lies. They include debates over the new political, economic and trade relationships that must be forged with Europe and the rest of the world as the UK leaves the EU.

Scotland also has a long civic tradition of support for international institutions and a rules-based world order that defends the fundamental rights of both nations and individuals.

For these reasons it is essential that a non-partisan Scottish institute of international affairs is created to stimulate informed discussion and debate about these issues in Scotland and further afield.

Its core aims must be to enhance public debate concerning international questions from both Scottish and global perspectives; to ensure sustained dialogue with specialists in international affairs outside Scotland and finally, it must serve as a repository of expertise to be placed at the service of public policy.

Scotland boasts a wide array of expertise on world affairs and this new Scottish institute can draw on the resources of some of the world’s best universities and their world-renowned specialists in global health, international law, diplomacy, defence and security issues.

Added to which are the huge reserves of expertise in Scotland’s vibrant non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and business communities. Organisations such as Scottish Enterprise and the Royal Society of Edinburgh would make invaluable contributions to understanding and promoting Scotland’s international interests.

Scottish journalism similarly has a long tradition of expert coverage of world politics and a pivotal role in stimulating national and cross-border conversations on international issues.

It is time Scotland’s collective knowledge, skills and experience were deployed to inform public debate and policy development both in Scotland and beyond.

The creation of a Scottish Institute of International Affairs is long overdue. It is needed now more than ever, to explain the complexities of world politics to Scotland, and, just as importantly, to explain Scotland to the rest of the world.

Dr Henry Lovat, Lecturer in International Law and Politics, University of Glasgow, and Professor Peter Jackson, Chair of Global Security, University of Glasgow