Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon has said she is leaving Brussels “in good heart and optimistic” after getting a “sympathetic response” from EU leaders when discussing the implications of Brexit on the country.
She has expressed concern about Scotland being taken out of the EU against the will of the Scottish people following last week’s referendum.
While 51.9% of people across the UK voted to leave the EU, the majority of people in Scotland voted to stay part of the bloc.
She said: “If there is a way for Scotland to stay, I am determined to try and find that way. I’ve found enormous interest in the referendum result, as you would expect, and I’ve also had a sympathetic response to the position Scotland now finds itself in, facing the prospect of being taken out of the European Union against our will, a position not of our making and not one we wanted.”
She held talks with European Parliament president Martin Schulz and the leaders of several of the groups in the European Parliament before meeting with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, who she said had given her a “very sympathetic response”.
Prior to the talks, he said Scotland had “won a right to be heard” in Brussels.
Ms Sturgeon said it was “early in the process” but she was confident Scotland’s voice was being heard.
She said: “If we get to a point where it seems to be the case that the only way of protecting Scotland’s relationship with Europe is by looking at the option of becoming an independent country, then that’s a choice I think the Scottish people have the right to make — but I’m not saying we are at that point yet.”
Some leaders have poured cold water on the idea of Scotland joining the EU.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said: “If the United Kingdom leaves, so does Scotland. Scotland has no competences to negotiate with the EU. The Spanish government rejects any negotiation with anyone other than the United Kingdom.”
That sentiment was echoed by French President François Hollande, who said: “The negotiations will be conducted with the United Kingdom, not with a part of the United Kingdom.”
Meanwhile, the chief minister of Gibraltar is in talks with London mayor Sadiq Khan as well as Ms Sturgeon to draw up plans to protect their regions in the wake of the Brexit vote.
Chief minister Fabian Picardo visited ministers in London on Tuesday to emphasise how crucial staying part of the single market is to Gibraltar’s economy.
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