French and Spanish oppose EU entry

Sturgeon ‘will get sympathy but little else’ say EU sources

Nicola Sturgeon meeting Martin Schulz
Nicola Sturgeon meeting Martin Schulz

* First Minister to meet Juncker in Brussels

4pm update: First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is expected to receive a lot of warm wishes but achieve little from her shuttle diplomacy with Brussels, according to insiders.

Sources say that there is “a lot of goodwill and sympathy” towards Scotland, but officials regard the Brexit issue as one for the UK.

Ms Sturgeon therefore looks like returning to Edinburgh empty-handed, though she will do so having met a number of key figures, including European Commission president Jean Claude Juncker and the group leaders.

Ms Sturgeon, who received backing from Holyrood for her mission to Brussels, will make the case for those countries and provinces which voted to maintain their membership of the EU.

She also met European Parliament president Martin Schulz and Guy Verhofstadt, the former Belgium prime minister who leads the Liberal Group at ­Brussels.

Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, declined her invitation because of meetings with UK officials. He is chairing the EU summit.

After her meeting with Mr Schulz, Ms Sturgeon said: “We are at a very early stage of this process.”

Mr Schulz said: “I listened carefully and I learned a lot.”

However, the French president and Spanish prime minister have both said they are opposed to the EU negotiating potential membership for Scotland.

Spanish premier Mariano Rajoy said he “believes everyone is extremely against it” and that “if the UK leaves, Scotland leaves”.

President Francois Hollande of France insisted the EU would make no advance deal with Scotland.

The Spanish position will not surprise many. Should Scotland secure access to the EU it would potentially spark off more demands from the Basques and Catalonia for separate recognition.

Daily Business Tuesday

At Holyrood, Labour, the Liberal Democrats and Greens backed her motion for talks with the UK government, other devolved administrations, EU institutions and member states, which was passed by 92-0. The Conservatives abstained.

While insisting that her immediate aims are to protect Scotland’s place in the European Union, she made it clear that independence was moving up the agenda.

She has ordered her civil service to start work on legislation for a second referendum on Scottish independence.

“I am in no doubt that there has been a very real and material change to Scotland’s circumstances brought about by last week’s referendum result,” she told parliament.

“There is no doubt that we are in a new and different place this week from last.

“During the independence referendum, we were told that staying in the UK meant we could benefit from having guaranteed access to the EU – that was a driving factor in many people’s votes. That is no longer true.

“The country and the constitutional settlement the people of Scotland voted for in 2014 is no longer a reality.

“Based on the very clear result in Scotland, if we were to be removed from the EU, it would be against the will of our people. That would be democratically unacceptable.

“It is for that reason that I have said that everything must be on the table to protect our place in Europe – including a second independence referendum.

“And to ensure that the option of holding a referendum within the timeframe of UK negotiations on leaving the EU is viable, we will prepare the legislation now”

Ms Sturgeon revealed that Scottish ministers had held talks with representatives of a number of EU states and provinces, including Germany, France, Slovakia Ireland and Gibraltar.

The was to “share our response to the result and our determination to protect Scotland’s relationship with Europe,” she said.

“I believe we have made a good start – our early priority has been to ensure that there is a widespread awareness across Europe of Scotland’s different choice in the referendum and of our aspiration to stay in the EU. We will intensify this work in the days and weeks ahead.

“It is my responsibility to ensure that Scotland’s voice is heard in Europe, and I intend to do so.

“However, let me clear about this – if the government does conclude that the best or only way to protect Scotland’s place in the EU is through a referendum on independence we will return to Parliament with that judgment and it will then, at that time, be for Parliament to decide.

“I am emphatically not asking parliament to endorse that step today. A vote for this motion is not a vote for a referendum on independence.”

Ms Sturgeon has set up a committee of advisers under the chairmanship of Anton Muscatelli, principal of Glasgow University, to guide the Scottish government on its policy towards Europe.

It will be made up of specialists on finance, economics, European and diplomatic matters and will encompass a range of political and constitutional opinions.

Ms Sturgeon told parliament it will provide the government “with access to a wealth of knowledge built up over years of experience.”

She said: “The Council will consider the impact of proposed changes to the UK’s relationship with the EU on Scottish interests and advise Scottish Ministers throughout our negotiations on the best way to secure Scottish interests and objectives.”

Other members include: Professor Sir David Edward, former judge of the European Court of Justice, Dame Marriot Leslie, former UK ambassador to NATO, Lord John Kerr, formerly head of the Diplomatic Service at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, John Kay, one of the country’s leading economists, Anne Glover, former chief scientific adviser to the President of the European Commission, Charles Grant, Director of the Centre for European Reform, David Martin, Labour MEP and Graeme Smith, General Secretary of the STUC.

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