Scotland’s Brexit minister has said the path to an independent Scotland joining the EU is more open than it has ever been before, sentiments shared by former council president Herman Van Rompuy.
Mike Russell, cabinet secretary for government business and constitutional relations, said there had been a “sea change” in the attitude to Scotland separating from the UK and joining the EU smoothly.
Mr Russell said it was a result of the “appalling” way the UK had treated the EU during Brexit negotiations.
During the independence campaign of 2014, the EU had said it would be difficult for Scotland to re-join the 27 member block had it voted for separation.
His comments come following an interview with the former president of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy, who said there would be no “solidarity” from the EU towards the UK in the event of a second vote on Scottish independence.
Mr Van Rompuy told the BBC: “I think there is a change, yes, because for a lot of people they are looking at what Scottish people are in favour of.
“They want to stay in the European Union and at the same time they are prevented to stay in the European Union because there is this Brexit case, and there is not much sympathy for the Brexit case in the European Union, not among the leaders and not among the men and women in the street.”
The former Belgian prime minister noted he did not favour separation or Scotland becoming independent from the UK and all 27 members of the block would need to approve Scotland’s application.
In its Programme for Government, the SNP said it was planning on aligning Scottish legislation in line with the European Union’s after Brexit, in the hope of making any transition back into Europe as simple as possible.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the Continuity Bill by keeping the country’s devolved law aligned with EU law, it would allow for the Scottish Parliament to “keep pace with changes to regulations and standards subsequently made by the EU” after Brexit.
Mr Russell said: “These welcome comments show again that there is clearly real sympathy and understanding for Scotland’s position in Europe, particularly given the hard-line anti-EU position of the UK Government.
“Scotland of course has been inside the EU and observing the acquis for over 45 years and Lord Kerr, the author of Article 50 and the UK’s former permanent representative to the EU has said an independent Scotland’s accession negotiation would be, ‘very swift’.”
Scottish Secretary of State, Conservative MP Alister Jack, said: “There are very real questions about whether an independent Scotland would be able to re-join the EU, not least because Scotland’s notional deficit is more than double that allowed under EU rules.
“I am very clear that Scotland’s future is better served by staying in the United Kingdom, keeping the pound, retaining control over of our democratic rights, and having control over our own fishing waters.
“In 2014 people in Scotland voted decisively to remain part of the United Kingdom. The Scottish Government promised it would be a once in a generation decision. They must respect the result of the referendum.”