Scottish government holds Brussels talks
Two Scottish government ministers are to travel to Brussels for discussions with MEPs on Scotland”s place in Europe following the Brexit vote.
External Affairs Secretary Fiona Hyslop will be joined at the talks by the new Brexit secretary Michael Russell.
The pair will also hold a briefing session in the Belgian capital.
Mr Russell – who is visiting Brussels for the first time since his appointment – will host a discussion with more than 130 audience members.
The Scottish government said the audience would include “Scots working and living in Brussels, stakeholders from member states and further afield, representatives from the EU institutions, and Brussels-based media.”
There will be representatives from EU members Hungary, Slovakia and Croatia as well as the US, New Zealand, the Faroe Islands, Channel Islands and Japan.
Separately, the SNP – which forms the Scottish government – will lead a debate at Westminster on the status of EU nationals in the UK following the vote to leave the European Union.
The opposition day debate will be led by SNP MP Joanna Cherry, who will accuse the UK government of using EU nationals as a “bargaining chip” in Brexit negotiations.
Speaking ahead of the Brussels visit, Mr Russell said: “A key objective from these talks will be to work with others across the political divide to avert a hard Brexit for Scotland – there is simply no UK mandate for that.
“I will also raise the first minister”s commitment to publish proposals that would allow Scotland to stay in the single market and to preserve aspects of our relationship with the EU even if the rest of the UK is intending to leave.”
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said she will publish proposals in the coming weeks aimed at allowing Scotland to retain access to the European single market after Brexit.
But she has said the prospect of a so-called “hard Brexit” would make it highly likely that a second independence referendum would be held if it was deemed “necessary to protect our country”s interests”.
Ms Sturgeon has also said an Independence Referendum Bill will be published for consultation this week.
Prime Minister Theresa May has insisted that she wants to engage with the Scottish government on the Brexit issues “that particularly matter to Scotland”.
And she has predicted Brexit will “enhance” Scotland”s standing in the world rather than diminish it as it offered an “exciting chance to forge a new role in the world”.
But she has also said Scotland will not be able to remain in the EU when the rest of the UK leaves, and that she was firmly against the prospect of a second Scottish independence referendum.