First Minister makes Scotland’s voice heard in European visit

The First Minister has visited Brussels for a series of talks with European leaders, highlighting Scotland’s political and cultural links with the continent and standing up for Scotland’s place as a European nation.

The trip comes as an EU official tells the BBC there has been a “paradigm shift” in European attitudes towards Scottish independence since Brexit.

Speaking ahead of the visit, Nicola sturgeon said: “Membership of the EU not only has huge economic benefits for Scotland, but is the basis of the core values we share around democracy, equality, co-operation and human rights.

“My engagements in Brussels are an opportunity to outline the Scottish government’s support for those values and how they contribute to a better Scotland, Europe and wider world.”

The First Minister met with both the EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier and the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker.

Making the case for an independent future

In a speech to the European Policy Centre, the First Minister reflected on 20 years of devolution, and on the SNP’s history of standing up for Scotland’s interests in Europe.

She also laid out the principals at the heart of the case for Scottish independence, arguing in favour of independent nation states “co-operating for the common good”.

She said: “It shouldn’t be surprising that belief in Scottish independence – which is about self government, not ethnicity – goes hand in hand with a belief in internationalism and interdependence. National identity is not, and never should be, an exclusive concept.

“For that reason, the basic values of the EU are ones we identify with. We like the idea of independent nation states co-operating for the common good. The commitments that heads of government made last month – defending one Europe, staying united, looking for joint solutions, promoting fairness, protecting democracy and the rule of law – they are ones which the Scottish Government endorses and wants to contribute to.”

Read Nicola’s full speech here.

How the UK has been undermining Scotland’s interests in Europe

Nicola Sturgeon criticised the UK Government, not only for ignoring Scotland’s interests but for actively undermining the Scottish Government’s efforts to make Scotland’s voice heard in Europe.

Taking the unusual step of refusing to provide practical support, the UK’s Foreign Office stepped in to undermine the First Minister’s trip to Brussels.

The decision demonstrated the need for an independent Scotland to pursue its own diplomatic relations in Europe and highlighted the futility of remaining part of the UK.

Nicola Sturgeon called the approach “pretty childish and pathetic” but said it hadn’t made any practical difference to the visit.

Promoting Scottish culture at the heart of Europe

The First Minister also launched the Made in Scotland Festival in Brussels, a week-long event designed to promote Scottish arts and culture in Europe.

The festival, which includes plays, concerts and dance shows, explores topical themes of inclusion, migration and place, and highlights the strength of Scotland’s international links.

“The Made in Scotland Festival is a symbol of Scotland’s will to maintain its cultural links with our friends in the European Union and the international community,” Fiona Hyslop, Scotland’s Culture secretary said.