Scotland's relationship with Europe

Scotland has always been an outward looking nation. The ties that bind our country to neighbours and friends across Europe are exceptionally important and according to recent opinion polls people in Scotland believe they are worth preserving.

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon arrives at the European Parliament. February 2013That is why an important part of our vision for an independent country is our continued membership of the European Union, so that the economic and social links we have nurtured over many decades will continue to bring benefits to Scotland and our EU family.

It is vitally important that our friends and colleagues across Europe have the information they need and want about the process that would lead to Scotland becoming independent following a Yes vote in autumn 2014.  And it matters that our European partners know of Scotland’s desire to play a constructive part in the future of the European Union.

It is with this in mind that I am visiting Brussels today. Later today – after some meetings to discuss the importance of structural funds to jobs and growth in Scotland - I will speak at the European Policy Centre to reaffirm our commitment to Scotland’s continued membership of the EU and outline the process of independence that will take place in the event of a Yes vote in 2014 and in the context of the Edinburgh Agreement. I will post the full transcript of my speech here later.

I will also make the point that the greatest risk to Scotland’s membership of the EU comes, not from the prospect of Scottish independence, but from the UK government’s position on Europe.

Our critics have spent years saying – wrongly – that a vote for independence would damage Scotland’s relationship with Europe.

But it is becoming increasingly clear that the real threat to Scotland’s membership of the European Union is not a yes vote in the 2014 referendum, but the policy of a Prime Minister who promises an in/out European referendum to appease the Euro-sceptics on his own back-benches.

We want our European partners to know that, regardless of the direction of UK policy, the Scottish Government is committed to remaining at the heart of Europe and seeking to address our collective challenges in a constructive way.

The people of Scotland need to know that our approach is different to that of the UK Government and that the majority who want to remain in Europe will be listened to as we plan Scotland’s future.