A 21ST-CENTURY industrial strategy for Europe can overcome social, political and economic divisions, according to a 40-point blueprint for reform.

The Scottish Centre on European Relations (SCER) has today called on Brussels to develop a plan for sustainable development to deal with problems inside and outwith the European Union.

The Edinburgh-based think tank has also urged Holyrood to develop a “stronger, clearer and consistent strategic framework” for its European and wider para-diplomacy.

Director Kirsty Hughes said: “Whatever happens next with Brexit, or with the independence debate, Scotland needs a strategic approach now to promote Scottish interests in, and Scotland’s contribution to, our shared European future. Brexit must not distract from this.”

The paper comes shortly ahead of the EU elections, which will take place from May 23-26.

A new five-year cycle will bring a refreshed European Parliament, changed European Commission and incoming European Council president.

The report, titled The Future of Europe: Disruption, Continuity and Change?, calls for major Eurozone reform to address future shocks and for Brussels leaders to create “stronger, strategic foreign policy that does not sacrifice values for interests”, also developing an “overarching and inclusive” sustainable development plan.

On the future of the European Union, it calls for “showing renewed and imaginative political leadership” to help navigate a “divided union and disruption and change globally”.

Meanwhile, a “more open” migration policy is recommended, while Scotland – where the administration at Holyrood has repeatedly called for the levers it needs to address skills gaps and population shortfalls – should be granted immigration powers in order to address its “wide-ranging economic, social, research and cultural needs”, with “regional visas” or Scottish national insurance numbers used to regulate the movement of people.

Stating that an “English nationalist ideology” has been seen to “take hold” in England, the report says Westminster’s “hostile environment” approach to migration has damaged the UK’s international reputation.

Warning that Scotland is not immune to the populism seen elsewhere in the bloc, the report calls on Edinburgh to “raise its ambitions” and “undertake bilateral audits of its European relations, establish civic dialogues on Europe and consider establishing a citizens’ assembly on the country’s European interests”.

Hughes commented: “The EU must build on and strengthen its best strategies in key areas including development, human rights and climate change and continue to be a leading voice in promoting the benefits of multilateralism.”

As many as 20 experts contributed to the paper, which SCER advisory board member John Kerr said makes “a refreshing change from the shallow slogans of the Westminster Brexit battle” and offers solutions to the “real issues” faced in the Brussels bloc today.

These include the need to hold “big tech” to account.

On the findings in the strategy report, Kerr said: “Let’s hope they are widely read, on both sides of the Border, and more widely across the EU.”

Noting that Brexit has dominated Holyrood’s European policy in the last three years, the report goes on: “There is scope, whatever happens with Brexit – and indeed with independence – to consider a more strategic approach. This would be in Scotland’s interests.

“There is much material both within existing policies and through the actions of the full gamut of non-governmental actors to build a more coherent and ambitious European strategy. 2019 is a vital moment for the European Union given the substantive challenges it faces and, more specifically, as it enters a new five-year institutional cycle.

“Scotland does not need to imitate the UK Government and be on the sidelines of those debates; and its current engagement in a predominantly sectoral way is not allowing the creative, big picture contribution that Scotland could make to strategic EU debates to be heard.”