There have been queues outside passport offices in Glasgow, Liverpool and other cities as desperate travellers try to beat the backlog of applications and save their holidays abroad. After two years of Covid restrictions it seems everyone is heading to the airport.

Not me, though. I went to Arran last week, and very nice it was too, once we eventually got there. Courtesy of yet another carry on with the ferries it was touch and go for a while. Only Neil Armstrong could possibly know the sense of triumph we felt on taking that first small step on Brodick.

While the big skies of Arran will likely be my limit this year, I salute those heading for far off shores. God speed ye brave souls. Bring me back a Toblerone as big as a small child, and if you see Nicola Sturgeon in duty free be sure to ask her to send lots of selfies from America. Letters are so 1987.

Yes, the First Minister is heading to the US next week. The announcement was made on Monday when the Scottish Government published its grandly titled Global Affairs Framework, or GAF for short. This document “sets out the values and principles underpinning the Scottish Government’s international work and the basis on which the Scottish Government will prioritise its international activity”.

According to the framework, Covid, the climate emergency and Ukraine have shown beyond doubt that we live in an interconnected world. “For any government,” it goes on, “the global and regional context inevitably impacts the achievement of domestic objectives. That is why it is imperative that Scotland becomes more active internationally.” In Scotland’s case the focus will be on global citizenship, maintaining close relations with the EU, gender inequality, and respect for human rights.

Sounds impressive, doesn’t it? There was cynical old you, thinking it was an elaborate justification for whatever freebie trip abroad ministers fancy making in the run-up to the next election/referendum. Dear heavens no.

This is Scotland claiming its place on the world stage, not in some vulgar, post-Brexit “Global Britain” kind of way. We’ll leave that to Boris Johnson. Scotland wants to be out there, shoulder to shoulder with the good guys. Not quite one of the Avengers, not an Iron Man or a Hulk, not yet anyway, but give us time. If the premiers of New Zealand (population five million), Estonia (1.3 million), Finland (5.5 million) can do it, why shouldn’t the First Minister of Scotland have a seat at the table?

Not that the opposition at home see it that way. On hearing of the plans for Ms Sturgeon to go to Washington, one Conservative MSP called the trip “a waste of taxpayer money in the middle of a cost of living crisis”.

While it is true that the value of Scotland’s exports to the US amount to a molehill when set against the mountain of goods sold to the rest of the UK, no job is to be sniffed at, no opportunity to make friends and influence people snubbed.

In any case, this is hardly Ms Sturgeon’s first rodeo. Previous trips to the US were made in 2015 (when she appeared on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart); 2017 (met the Governor of California to discuss climate change); and 2019 (five days in the US and Canada). Had Covid not interrupted chances are she would have gone to America in 2021.

On this trip, besides meetings with Congressional groups and business executives, Ms Sturgeon will make an appearance at the Brookings Institution in Washington DC. The event is listed as, “Scotland and the Future of European Energy Security: a conversation with Nicola Sturgeon”. Timely, I’m sure you would agree.

Even so, is the entire trip worth it? Does it offer value for money? Courtesy of a freedom of information request, we know that the 2019 trip cost £44,000. That covered flights, accommodation and subsistence for the First Minister and seven support staff. In a perfect world we would be able to compare costs with outcomes, the money spent and the jobs created, much in the way that you can work out how much each Olympic medal costs. Soft power, however, does not work like that. If it did it would probably be exercised far less often than it is.

It is hard to put a value on some things. Think of the knowledge exchanged over a cup of coffee here or a drinks reception there.

On her travels, for example, Ms Sturgeon might meet someone who knows how to build ferries on time and within budget. Or she could come across a sure fire way to close the educational attainment gap. The possibilities are endless, if difficult to pinpoint.

Scotland’s First Minister is hardly alone in heading abroad. Indeed, like the rest of us she has barely been anywhere in the last couple of years. Boris Johnson has racked up an impressive number of air miles since restrictions were lifted, and no Conservative has complained about that, not even Douglas Ross.

All told, for reasons of trade, diplomacy, and precedent, we should be sending the First Minister on her way with a pat on the back. What does it matter that such trips might advance the cause of independence by showing Scotland to be a nation in its own right, much in the way of those regular press briefings on Covid?

As the Global Affairs Framework says, the principles behind the initiative would apply regardless of Scotland’s constitutional position, but (and didn’t you know there would be a but) “clearly the contribution that Scotland could make, and the benefits it could receive, would be significantly enhanced by the powers of independence rather than devolution.” In short, you would get more bang for your buck with a First Minister of an independent Scotland, just saying.

There is another good reason why the First Minister should be heading to the airport next week. A bit delicate this one, but we are all grown ups here. Put yourself in her position. She’s young enough to have another career when her time in Bute House comes to an end, whenever that might be. As other ex-political leaders have shown, it is a cold world out there. They were all the future once.

The job seeking does not have to be done in an obvious, Yosser Hughes kind of way, but there is no harm in showing one's face. If nothing else it displays initiative and good old Scottish get up and go. What better calling card could there be?