ALEX Salmond has said the vote in the next independence referendum should be on Scottish independence inside the European Free Trade Area (EFTA).

The former First Minister has previously suggested an independent Scotland should join EFTA as a “transition” to full EU membership.

But in his speech last night to business leaders he suggested the situation could be lasting rather than a temporary measure.

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The move is a shift away from the SNP’s policy of independence in Europe, although it is one set out in the Scottish Government’s Brexit’s proposals, Scotland’s Place in Europe , published last year.

He said joining EFTA – whose members are Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Liechtenstein – would bring economic benefits to the newly independent Scotland by allowing for the free movement of people as well as free movement of goods, capital and services.

“We have 18 months of Brexit negotiations and after that perhaps a three-year period of transition to get our ducks in a row,” he said.

“We have to offer something which is doable, feasible and speedily deliverable for the European connections of an independent Scotland.

“So what is necessary for us to secure from Europe? There is only one thing that is essential ... and that is the comparative economic advantage which comes from being part of the world’s largest single market with the many international connections such membership guarantees. “

He added: “We can get this from the European Union but we can also get it from membership of the European Free Trade Area – which also allows access to the European Economic Area which can be secured for an independent Scotland quickly and effectively.”

Speaking at the Business for Scotland dinner, for which The National is media partner, Salmond said EFTA membership would not be available to the UK as Norway had indicated it would not be keen on the UK joining because of the resistance in England to the free movement of people.

Salmond explained: “There are no such problems for an independent Scotland, and because of that this should be our proposition to take to the people.

“In a political sea of uncertainty, we would have the advantage of putting forward a defined proposition – an independent Scotland as a member EFTA with all the economic advantages that confers.”

Salmond suggested one advantage of an independent Scotland being in the EEA, over being a full EU member, was that it would allow the new state to decide whether it would be inside the customs union (like Liechtenstein) or outside the customs union (like Norway) depending on the transitional arrangements Europe makes with our English neighbours.

He said: “That can secure a seamless border on the Tweed just as membership of the single market will guarantee Scottish goods and people full economic rights from Reykjavik to Riga.”

He added: “Is this a great departure from the SNP’s independence in Europe position? Not really.

“EFTA membership can, if Scotland so wishes, be a prelude to full EU membership in the future. In any case in the Scotland’s Place in Europe document the Scottish Government have already proposed EFTA alignment for Scotland.”