SNP MEP Alyn Smith: European attitudes to Scotland have changed

THERE has been a 'step-shift' in European attitudes towards Scotland following last month's referendum, according to SNP MEP Alyn Smith.

Mr Smith insisted there has been a change in EU views on Scotland since the Scottish Governments 2014 bid for independence. Picture: TSPL

He said retaining Scotland’s place in the European Union (EU) could even provide the “good news story” the bloc needs and that political goodwill towards finding a solution for the country “exists in spades”.

Speaking at the launch of his campaign for the deputy leadership of his party in Edinburgh, Mr Smith insisted there has been a change in EU views on Scotland since the Scottish Government’s 2014 bid for independence.

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During that campaign, some European leaders were hostile towards the prospect of an independent Scotland being given automatic or fast-tracked membership.

The Scottish Government is currently looking at all options for protecting Scotland’s place in Europe, including a second independence referendum if it emerges as the best or only choice, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said.

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She travelled to Brussels after the June 23 vote for Brexit to highlight Scotland’s majority vote for remain, meeting with several EU leaders and reporting a “sympathetic response”.

Mr Smith said: “There has been an almost total inversion of the attitudes to Scotland. There is a recognition that we voted to remain, there is a recognition that we expect something different.

“Whatever that something different is remains to be seen.

“Brussels is good at this sort of stuff - there are ways that can be found and that will come down to political goodwill, which I believe absolutely firmly exists in spades for us.”

He added: “There has been a step-shift in terms of how Scotland is being perceived.

“Don’t underestimate the importance that Scotland plays in this at a time when the EU really needs a good news story - we could be it.”

Setting out his deputy leadership pitch, Mr Smith said he was offering his services to “be a freelance roving sherpa for Nicola” by selling Scotland to Europe.

He said his experience as an MEP means he can “explain Scotland to Europe, Europe to Scotland, make sense of Brexit and get the best deal we (Scotland) can”.

Other contenders for the deputy leader role are Westminster group leader Angus Robertson, MP Tommy Sheppard and councillor Christopher McEleny.