US trip more about 'Brand Nicola Sturgeon' than Scottish independence

Nicola Sturgeon’s trip to the United States has far more to do about her global image and reputation than the independence project.

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The First Minister has been criticised by opposition parties for focusing her time and energy on those outside the shores of Scotland, and the opposition derisively labelled it an “indy tour” when it was announced.

One foreign policy analyst, Michael O’Hanlon, director of research in foreign policy at Brookings Institution, told The Herald the suggestion pushing the issue of Scottish independence was akin to the SNP being “political opportunists” which could “weaken the alliance” of Nato.

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Nicola Sturgeon defends US trip after 'indy tour' criticism

It feels slightly disingenuous to suggest the issue of independence, one which is stuck in a seemingly never-ending tar pit of stagnation, would have such an impact.

This is particularly jarring when the UK Government threatens a trade war with the EU over a Brexit deal it signed less than 18 months ago as Northern Ireland slides ever further into crisis.

Perhaps Mr O’Hanlon would say that will undermine the Nato alliance more than independence would, perhaps not.

Ostensibly, Ms Sturgeon’s US trip will focus on COP26 and the climate crisis, but will be overshadowed by the question of independence.

Nicola Sturgeon is in the USA this week.Nicola Sturgeon is in the USA this week.
Nicola Sturgeon is in the USA this week.

The SNP leader claimed in a column for The Times the trip was business as usual and “part of the job” of the First Minister.

Sub-national states and regions engaging in foreign relations is not unusual, but it will be interesting to see how potential queries about Scotland’s constitutional future are answered and received.

In the foreign policy climate of war in Europe and a need for energy security, balanced against the urgency of the climate emergency, independence feels like small fry.

It is also true there has been no movement, officially, by the Scottish Government to set out its view on what the future independent Scottish state would look like or how it would act on the world stage.

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The trip is instead an attempt at an epilogue of the giddy excitement caused by the attention bestowed on the First Minister and Scotland thanks to COP26.

Ms Sturgeon will hope it allows her to present her global brand as a liberal, progressive, climate conscious leader in the eyes of the world, even if domestically those credentials are suspect.

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