SCOTLAND’S relationships with the rest of Europe and the world matter. Given the depth of global interconnection, our devolved institutions can only fully exercise their functions by engaging with colleagues across this continent and beyond. Our politics, economy and society benefit from cooperation with European and international counterparts.

These days, however, Scottish political engagement with the outside world is regularly viewed as merely an extension of the independence debate. Increased polarisation often reduces what should be a thoughtful discussion into a simplistic one, with two views: either Scotland should engage abroad to further the independence cause or it should stay at home by leaving matters to the UK.

That dichotomy is as false as it is corrosive.

Scotland belongs in the world, whatever its future. At the same time, we should all recognise that Scotland’s constitutional position places obvious limits on the scope for its external action and that exporting our internal politics is never a winning proposition.

Last week, the Scottish Government published what it calls the Global Affairs Framework. Ostensibly, the framework is a new high-level strategy to guide the government’s European and international relations.

This domain certainly demands good strategy. We are now in the post-Brexit era. Scotland is not a state and not part of the EU. Regardless of one’s constitutional preferences, Scotland will not be part of the EU for years to come. If the Scottish Government aims to achieve some success from interacting with the EU and other partners this decade, it needs a clear rationale and realistic objectives.

The regrettable fact is that the Global Affairs Framework delivers neither the strategic vision nor the policy rigour which the times require. The document is comprised mostly of general statements and vague aspirations. It lays out no meaningful principles to define the Government’s European and global engagement. It establishes no tangible goals, timetables or targets to structure that engagement. It ignores the substantial challenges which Scotland must confront in this domain in favour of relentless projection of unanchored optimism. In its relative superficiality, the framework is more a brochure than a strategy.

Among its deficiencies, the Scottish Government’s global framework allows, if not encourages, its EU and international relations to be intermixed with the independence debate. The document implies that it is a forerunner of the forthcoming Scottish Government white paper on independence and foreign policy.

In reality, Scottish external action should be intentionally separated from the constitutional debate. Relations with Germany or Canada should be resolutely focused on mutually beneficial cooperation, not one-sided iterations of Scottish and British politics. Our global partners do not want to be drawn into the independence debate and, if they are, our opportunities will begin to evaporate. In short, the more the constitution bleeds into external relations, the less Scotland will achieve.

In fact, given the polarisation in our politics, it is encouraging that the Scottish Parliament’s Europe committee published a detailed cross-party report last month on the Scottish Government’s European and international engagement. The committee made a range of specific recommendations on the structure and content of the Global Affairs Framework. Among its proposals (some of which I advocated), the parliament’s report calls for the Government’s strategy to have a defined long-term timeframe (like 2022-2030); to prioritise countries, regions and themes; and to demonstrate how it is working with the UK government in this area. Unfortunately, the actual framework follows none of these recommendations.

Many people care greatly about our relationship with the EU. Yet here the Scottish Government’s framework repeats familiar platitudes. Brexit is truly over. For Scotland to have any hope of acquiring modest influence on the EU’s developments, or of maintaining a degree of strategic connectivity with the EU, it needs adroit strategy. The framework states a desire to have “the closest possible relationship with the EU”, but provides no detail on attainable objectives to do so.

Without an actionable vision, such statements lack meaning. In its framework, the Government continues to describe the EU as a monolithic wonderland. In reality, the EU is a complex political union in which values, ideas and policies are contested. If the Scottish Government wants to engage effectively with the EU, it must appreciate those profound complexities and have informed opinions of its own.

The reality is that the Global Affairs Framework does not provide the substantive basis necessary for Scotland to pursue a productive relationship with the EU as part of the UK, taking into account the limitations involved. The framework lacks the detail needed at this point. Simply put: it is not a strategy. The Scottish Government cannot conduct successful European and international relations without a viable strategy to define realistic objectives and to ensure that limited resources are used wisely to achieve those objectives.

Moreover, without such clarity, it is impossible for the parliament, the public, or even the Government itself to assess the purpose, direction or results of its external action. This area needs better debate, greater scrutiny – and, yes, actual strategy.

Anthony Salamone is managing director of European Merchants, a political analysis firm