Scotland to '˜step up' links with other EU nations after Brexit

Scotland will be 'stepping up' efforts to retain links with other European Union nations, External Affairs Secretary Fiona Hylsop said.

Fiona Hyslop MSP.

She stressed the importance of continuing “friendship, collaboration and partnership” in the run-up to Brexit.

With negotiations over leaving the EU at a crucial stage, she vowed the Scottish Government “will be stepping up our engagement plans”.

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Since the start of 2017 there have been more than 200 meetings and discussions between Scottish ministers and other European governments, institutions and organisations - an average of at least three a week.

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Ms Hyslop said: “The strong desire by our European partners to engage has never been greater.”

With a majority of Scots having voted to remain in the EU in 2016, she pledged ministers were “determined to make Scotland’s voice heard as we enter a crucial stage in the Brexit negotiations”.

She made the commitment in a speech marking Europe Day, an event celebrating the shared history and culture of EU states.

Ms Hyslop said: “Whatever the outcome, it is essential that we continue our collaboration, friendship and partnership with EU nations.

“Our knowledge, expertise and leadership in many areas of shared interest - such as rural economic development, climate change, innovation and culture - mean the soft power influence we exert is significant.”

She continued: “Leaving the EU is against the democratic will of the people of Scotland, but we also firmly believe it is the wrong course for the UK as a whole.

“The continued membership of the single market, which is around eight times bigger than the UK market alone, and customs union is essential for our economy, society and people.

“Yet what is also clear is that, despite the threat of Brexit, Scotland’s interconnections with EU countries can and must remain strong. Through all avenues, channels and networks available, we are taking steps to safeguard these critical relationships.”