IT’S not a good look for the SNP Government to pick a fishing war with Ireland – in fact, it’s plain stupid.

Issuing threats to Ireland over fishing around the disputed island of Rockall is not in the best interests of Scotland, nor in the best interests of independence. The UK claimed the tiny volcanic outcrop in 1955. Ireland has always disputed the claim. Denmark and Iceland also claim the rock. SNP External Affairs Secretary Fiona Hyslop wrote to the Irish Government saying protection vessels will be deployed to take “enforcement action” against Irish fishing boats within 12 miles of Rockall.

Suffice to say, the Irish Government is angry – but in a calm and measured way. Irish Fisheries Minister Michael Creed made clear Ireland has the right to fish at Rockall under EU law. Ireland is now considering its legal options – including recourse to the European Court of Justice.

The optics of this affair stink for the SNP. This is a party which wants to lead an independent Scotland into the EU in the wake of Brexit. To do that, Scotland needs friends – and Ireland is one of Scotland’s closest historic friends. Ireland is also a powerful member of the EU – as we’ve learned from the support Brussels threw behind Dublin on the issue of a post-Brexit border with Northern Ireland.

Only yesterday the Spanish Government made clear its intransigent position on an independent Scotland’s entry to the EU post-Brexit. The diplomat Miguel Angel Vecino, who served as Spanish consul in Edinburgh, was sacked by Madrid after stating that Spain wouldn’t block an independent Scotland’s membership of the EU.

This fisheries war risks seriously alienating Scotland’s closest friend, just when Ireland may be needed the most.

However, folly is only part of the problem: hypocrisy is another. It appears a little at odds with the ideology of the SNP that it should be so keen to champion the claims of the United Kingdom to Rockall, at the expense of the rights and wishes of another small nation, Ireland. Rockall may be seen as part of Scotland, but the sovereignty claim is British. Why is the SNP fighting London’s battles – especially when London clearly doesn’t want a fight?

It appears that the SNP is happy to reap the benefits of the Union when it suits, to the detriment of friends and neighbours. Not a good, or grown-up, look. London, it seems, is even putting pressure on the Scottish Government to pull back from the confrontation. In Irish eyes this is clearly a Scottish plan, not a British one.

Read more: Ireland threatens EU court action in Rockall dispute

As the former Irish ambassador to the EU and the UK, Bobby McDonagh, says: “The SNP Government, the principal policy of which is to seek independence for Scotland, is forcefully asserting its interpretation of UK rights more strongly than the UK Government itself.”

Brussels is paying close attention to this little Celtic spat – and there will be some in the EU wondering if this is what the incorporation of a post-independence Scotland will bode. Will Scotland become another irritant like the UK, forever picking squabbles and causing disruption? If someone wants to join a club, it’s probably not advised to start a fight before applying for membership.

It’s hard not to see the SNP playing pretty pathetic Brexit politics. Many Scottish fishermen support Brexit, and the Rockall affair looks like a fairly clumsy and mercenary way of wooing them to the SNP’s side.

How much good diplomatic work is being unravelled by this utterly unnecessary show of force by Edinburgh? Strong ties have been built between Scotland and Ireland as evidenced by the First Minister’s recent visit to Dublin, and her praise for Ireland. There’s surprise in Dublin that the Rockall issue was not raised when Nicola Sturgeon met the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in late May. If the issue was such a big deal why did the two leaders not discuss it? Who’s pushing this issue inside the SNP, and why?

It’s hard to imagine Ms Sturgeon seeing any of this as a good idea. Her calmness and diplomacy seem strikingly at odds with the blunt, aggressive comments of the head of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, Bertie Armstrong, who said “it would be very unwise of Ireland to pick a fight”. To even a casual observer, it’s Scotland picking the fight, not Ireland. Ireland’s former ambassador Bobby McDonagh called this “playground bully stuff”. In Ireland, the response has been reasoned and a little bewildered. Although there’s upset too that a friend like Scotland could behave in such an aggressive and unwarranted way.

However, despite Ireland trying to de-escalate the situation, Scotland should be in no doubt that the Dublin government won’t budge. If Ireland didn’t accept the claims of London to Rockall in the 1950s when the country was relatively weak and isolated, it won’t accept claims by Edinburgh in 2019 when the country is strong and with plenty of European allies at its back.

Rockall represents something Ireland won’t tolerate any more – humiliation from across the water. The Irish rebel band, The Wolfe Tones, named after a Dublin revolutionary, wrote a song about Rockall. The lyrics go: “So keep your hands off Rockall, it’s Irish to the core.”

If the SNP wants to keep Scotland’s friends, ease the nation’s way into Europe as an independent nation and not be seen to be completely hypocritical when it comes to the benefits of the Union, then it would be well advised to make the Rockall debacle go away as quickly as possible. Perhaps bury it in the international courts where it can grind on for decades and be quietly forgotten.

As an Irishman who’s lived half his life in Scotland, some may dismiss what I’ve said by the standards of Norman Tebbit’s infamous “Cricket Test” (do I really support my “home” country more than my “adopted” one?). My comments, however, are made with Scotland’s best interests at heart. I’ve as much fondness for Scotland as I do for Ireland. I’m looking at this fishing war as an observer, not as an Irishman or an adopted Scot. When nationality and emotion are stripped away, and the affair is studied even-handedly, impartially and with cold honest detail, the only conclusion is that the SNP is pointlessly damaging Scotland, and independence, when it comes to the Rockall dispute.

Neil Mackay is Scotland's Columnist of the Year