However, the language of diplomacy is markedly polite, with any snubs subtle and easily missed, and for good reason – maintaining friendly relations between countries is important for the sake of everything from trade to the prevention of conflict.
Scotland’s position as a nation within a nation means its First Minister is both a domestic UK politician caught up in the fractious nature of cross-party feuding and a national leader who must recognise the importance of ‘intra-national’ co-operation with the rest of the UK.
Given the pressing need for both governments to work together on the Covid recovery, it was, therefore, disappointing to hear Nicola Sturgeon accuse UK Cabinet minister Michael Gove of “sneering, arrogant condescension” after he suggested Boris Johnson would not allow a second independence referendum.
Asked if Johnson might change his position during this Westminster parliament, Gove replied mildly: “I don’t think so… I can’t see it.”
Sturgeon's over-the-top response was decidedly undiplomatic for a politician who aspires to be the leader of an independent state, particularly given its interests would be best served by close and friendly relations with the UK. And while her remarks may fire up the SNP’s base, they are unlikely to go down well with floating voters alarmed by displays of hostility towards the UK and its politicians.
The First Minister was right when she said that denying a referendum will fuel support for independence, but by descending to needlessly unpleasant playground insults, she overplayed her hand.
Regrettably, Sturgeon was not the only politician saying silly things this week, with UK Education Secretary Gavin Williamson encouraging school children to sing the “One Britain, One Nation” song, which includes the lyrics, “We are Britain and we have one dream, To unite all people in one great team”, “United forever, never apart” and, repeatedly, “Strong Britain, great nation”.
It was not long before comparisons with North Korea were being drawn and Williamson’s suggestion will do little to reassure those worried that Brexit Britain is becoming overly nationalistic to hide its failings behind flags and bunting.
The “best small country in the world” would surely work hard to disagree agreeably. And a truly great nation doesn’t need to sing about it.