SNP planning Scottish ‘consulates’ in every EU state – despite not being independent

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The idea was first suggested by Irish politician Neale Richmond as a way for Scotland to plot its route back into the EU as a hypothetical sovereign nation in the future. Fine Gael’s European Affairs spokesman and former chair of the Dail’s Brexit committee said the “short-term goal” would be “realistic” in preparing Scotland to re-join the EU and ultimately achieving the SNP’s long-running dream of Scottish independence. This has prompted support from the SNP’s Constitution, Europe and External Affairs Secretary Michael Russell, who said Holyrood’s current external offices are “very important” for trade.

He added expanding this could also provide Scotland with a number of other opportunities and benefits.

Mr Russell told the Sunday National newspaper: “I think Neale is probably right.

“Look at the success of Quebec and its Flemish offices, they’ve assisted with trade and with the political situation.”

The Government in Quebec opened an office in Brussels in 1972 “to promote Quebec and its interests in Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands, as well as within the European institutions” since 1972.

This is one of more than 30 offices the Government has in 18 counties, focusing on key domestic issues related to the economy, education, culture, immigration and public affairs.

In 2005, a satellite team was set up in Beijing, with a second following in Dublin in 2016, while hopes remain of further expansion into Scandinavia.

These teams co-locate, with some working from inside numerous British Embassies and several others sharing with other agencies, such as the Scottish Development International and VisitScotland.

Mr Russell said: “I’d love to be open in every capital. The Brussels office is really important for us, the German and French offices have been very important, London is very important.

“We have to look north as well as east and south, and I think getting into Scandinavia would be a good thing.

“If we could afford it, I’d say open in every country. But there are constraints with finance.”

But the backing from the SNP’s Constitution, Europe and External Affairs Secretary comes despite Scotland still being part of the UK and not being independent in its own right.

Britain will leave the EU at the end of the Brexit transition period on December 31.

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In 2016, the UK population voted by a narrow margin of 52 percent to 48 percent to leave the EU during a historic referendum in 2016, but Scotland voted by a margin of 62 percent to 38 percent to remain part of the Brussels trading bloc.

Since then, Ms Sturgeon and the SNP have ramped up their campaign for a second referendum on Scottish independence – despite Scotland rejecting independence by a margin of 55 percent to 45 percent during a referendum in 2014.

The initial comments from Fine Gael politician Mr Richmond were made in conversation with Dr Kirsty Hughes, the founder and director of the Scottish Centre on European Relations.

Speaking during the second episode of the European Conversations podcast for the European Movement in Scotland, he claimed Europe’s attitude to a potential Scottish bid for membership of the bloc has “clearly changed” from that of 2014.

He also claimed Brexit would make any bid for re-entry into the EU “certainly a lot easier”.

Mr Richmond said: “We have a Scottish Government office here in Dublin within the British Embassy.

“The growing number of Scottish offices, be they in Brussels to the EU, be they in Berlin, Paris, that is absolutely the way to go.

“To have a Scottish Government representation in each of the 27 member states should be a very realistic short-term goal for the Scottish Government to give that very distinct Scottish opinion.

“When we look at some of the Scottish Government’s policies, particularly when it comes to freedom of movement and immigration, they’re quite different to the current British administration.

“Seeing that, and seeing Scotland’s outward-looking approach, we need to see the very key bilateral ties.”

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