IN the year when it enters the international stage like never before, it was the issue of the erosion of gay rights in Russia which prompted an unexpected foreign policy statement by Glasgow.

In her letter to the Mayor of Rostov-on-Don, a regional capital of more than one million souls, Glasgow's Lord Provost expressed hope that any city with which Glasgow had a relationship "would uphold people's human rights and treat them with dignity".

Sadie Docherty also offered to share with Rostov "our good experience of working to include lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered citizens as a valued part of our city".

Laudable in its intent, yes. But condescending correspondence to a counterpart with no say over national legislation, effectively a Russian version of the Section 28 laws in force in Scotland until 2000, is clumsy and undiplomatic.

First, as ghastly and homophobic as Russia's new gay propaganda laws may be, they result in fines and not the 14 years' imprisonment with corporal punishment handed down to those guilty of same-sex relations in Glasgow's African good cause, Malawi.

Closer to home a UK newspaper headlined on fears of same-sex promotion in schools, which would sit easily in Putin's Russia. Given the track record of its twin cities and their nations on human rights the bigger allegation Glasgow stands accused of is surely hypocrisy.

A quick point Mrs Docherty may have considered before penning her letter to Michael Chernyshev: Rostov has a thriving gay scene. Lahore, Glasgow's Pakistan twin, does not.

Nor does Bethlehem, another.

In Pakistan, the crime of same-sex relations can carry a sentence of life imprisonment. In the Palestinian Territories, LGBT protection is at best patchy. Many flee the West Bank to Israel citing discrimination but are then denied asylum because of the ongoing conflict.

Beyond sexuality, in the 12 years since twinning with Havana has there been any correspondence from Glasgow over the repression of virtually all forms of political dissent and the accompanying detentions, beatings, public acts of repudiation, travel restrictions, and forced exile?

A similar patronising and publicised letter to the civic leadership in these cities would not sit well with the those blinded to such abuses by their political correctness. And where do you start with the 16-year twinned relationship with the Chinese city of Dalian?

Of course Glasgow has benefited from the expertise of Dalian's badminton coaches but not a peep on China's brutal curbs on freedom of expression, association, and religion, press censorship, and repression in ethnic minority areas in Tibet, Xinjiang, and Inner Mongolia.

If we are to blame Mr Chernyshev for Russian abuses, is Turin's mayor similarly culpable for Italian political corruption and the mass deportation of African immigrants and Roma?

Glasgow's Rostov relationship goes back to 1986, when Russia was under a dictatorship. Like the others it seems borne of a political fad.

Their current usefulness is questionable. But before risking burning bridges Mrs Docherty should equip herself with some diplomatic skills and knowledge.