‘SCOTLAND will not leave.” Those words by Austrian finance minister Jörg Schelling provide optimism that somehow a deal can be done to keep Scotland within the European Union. That prospect will rely on the strength of feeling across 27 European capitals. Vienna, where politicians are still coming to terms with the surprise Brexit vote, provides a useful testing ground for the extent of that political sympathy.

Senior Austrian politicians here also express their anger towards leaders of the Leave campaign for their failure to create a Brexit negotiating plan. Frustration towards Westminster coupled with a greater understanding of the UK’s constitutional differences provides Scotland with a unique diplomatic opportunity.

“We are happy as Europeans that Scotland is always on the side of the European full membership, and a strong European Union. But it is not so easy from the interconnection between Scotland and London,” says MEP Othmar Karas of the governing Austrian People’s Party.

Karas, who is paying attention to the constitutional fallout in the UK, adds that Scotland could try to block the Article 50 process of exiting the EU or go for another independence referendum.

“We are in open dialogue with London and with Scotland. But the decision must be taken by the officials of Scotland and the UK,” he adds.

The words of minister Schelling, who predicts that “Great Britain becomes little Britain” with Scotland staying in the EU, are a signal that the Austrian Government expects an independent Scotland – but uncertainty remains over how the EU referendum aftermath will play out.

Austrian Green MEP and European parliament vice-president Ulrike Lunacek sympathises with the democratic claim Scotland has to stay in the EU. “The people of Scotland and the people of Northern Ireland voted with a majority in order to stay. Yes, I would hope that all possibilities or options should be looked at. Maybe there is a way for Scotland to remain,” she says.

Lunacek was one of the MEPs on her feet to support the speech by the SNP’s Alyn Smith, who won widespread support within the European Parliament in his call to support Scotland’s EU membership.

“I think it touched a chord with many of us who have been disappointed, angry at the irresponsible leaders. It was a very emotional moment,” Lunacek explains.

Whether that symbolic solidarity transfers into real political action remains to be seen – but already the Scottish National Party have been reaching out across Europe, including to Austria, in search of allies. SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson MP, who worked in Vienna as a journalist, appeared on Austria’s public broadcaster Österreichischer Rundfunk, and spoke in fluent German about the impacts of the Brexit vote.

That soft engagement has already won some backing. Austrian honorary consul John Clifford has said there is “no question” that an independent Scotland would be welcome in the EU. The ice cold response towards Scotland from many European figures in 2014 is now melting away.

Meanwhile, Austria’s Wiener Zeitung newspaper poked fun at the Brits – picturing an Englishman waiting on an imaginary door marked “Brexit” rather than walk through the marked entrance or exit.

Karas and Lunacek are also less than polite in their appraisal of UK leadership. “I am very sad that all people – Mr Johnson, Mr Farage and others – who fought for the Brexit are not willing to take their responsibility. They all go out. That is a mess,” Karas exclaims.

Lunacek criticises David Cameron for holding 500 million European citizens “hostage” for a referendum about his internal party difficulties. “What kind of politicians are those who make a mess? This is really something,” she says.

Yet while the political view of Scotland and the UK in Austria has been changed by the Brexit vote, there will be no rush to intervene on the question of Scottish membership until there is a clear UK negotiating position or an independent Scotland to negotiate with.

Yet Dr Melanie Sully, who worked as professor of political science at the diplomatic academy in Vienna, believes that even the tentative overtures to Scotland are significant.

“The EU as such does not exist for the reception of new members since they all jostle for their own positions and interests. So we see a difference in reception to Scotland’s moves so far towards Europe after the referendum. Many countries I think are sympathetic to the Scots,” Dr Sully explains.

“I do believe Scotland has a constructive role to play at the moment in co-ordinating with the other devolved administrations and with London and Gibraltar in the wake of a Westminster power vacuum.

“At the stage we need to provide some semblance of unity and the independence debate may well come later,” she adds.

The Brexit negotiations and a likely second independence referendum will require tough diplomatic brinkmanship. Yet what the Scottish Government is seeking to achieve, staying within the EU, brings its own controversies and challenges.

Alexandra Strickner is one of the co-founders of Attac Austria, an activists network which has led the country’s opposition movement to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership between Europe and the USA, a corporate deal better known by its abbreviation TTIP. It was one issue that contributed to public scepticism towards the EU project, which was rejected by a significant minority, 38 per cent, of Scots.

Strickner hopes an independent Scotland would seek to oppose such corporate deals within the EU, despite the challenges.

She says: “When you are small and you want to get in there’s a temptation to be nice. Otherwise why would they let you in? It’s a question of power relations. When you are too nice it means you will not get a good deal.

“You have a really strong corporate takeover of the EU institutions. Pushing progressive policies at an EU level is really tough. What we can see in euro currency countries is a massive attack on labour protections and trade unions.”

Another area of discontent in Scotland has been the enforcement of the Common Fisheries Policy – an area the Scottish Government claims it would seek to reform. What reform priorities Scotland would have upon entering the EU – while achieving a good membership deal– presents a difficult balancing act.

Lunacek hopes Scotland “would be an ally” for progressive change in contrast to her disappointment at Tory and Labour UK governments.

“I would say with many things with a Scottish Government that is in favour of putting social, ecological and human rights issues on the forefront of how the European Union needs to be improved, they would be an ally,” Lunacek says.

However, Karas has a different perspective on the EU’s future. His Conservative party celebrates the economic agenda of the common market.

We were on the border of the EU, the border of western Europe. Now we are the centre. Our economic growth is stronger than it was in the past,” Karas states.

Vienna, a historic centre of global diplomacy, is but one of dozens of capitals where Scotland’s EU fate will be determined. While politicians there now have open minds, the real challenges for Scottish international diplomacy lie ahead.