LAST week’s European elections provided yet more evidence, were any required, of the divergence in UK politics. Outside Scotland the Brexit Party’s victory was depressingly predictable with the map turning light blue across England and even much of Wales.

Yet in Scotland the SNP won in every mainland local authority turning the electoral map yellow and returning the highest vote share of any political party in western Europe with an unambiguous message that we wanted to Remain.

Almost three years on from the EU referendum the similarities to the political map produced then was uncanny. The message from the electorate then was the same as the one now – Scotland is a European nation and wants to remain working as a true partnership of equals with other independent and sovereign states.

It is fair to say that the SNP was not alone and other pro-European parties also saw their vote increase with the Brexit Party, like Vote Leave before them, getting short shrift from the Scottish electorate.

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Scotland’s pro-European politics and the work of the Scottish Government to maintain the links we have with the European Union has not gone unnoticed. Over the past three years I have spoken to countless friends and colleagues working in the EU and member states who have distinctly warmed to the idea of Scotland retaining EU membership in our own right.

Many of them get why we want to be independent in a way that frankly many of them didn’t in 2014.

Just a couple of weeks ago French MP Jean-Christophe Agarde even wrote in The Scotsman newspaper of all places that Scotland would be welcome. Agarde set out that France made a mistake in 2014 in refusing to back independence and should not do so in the future writing:

“I deeply believe that an independent Scotland would have its place in Europe with no conditions and without delay, something of which it cannot be deprived.

‘‘The deadlines and conditions imposed during the joining process are dependent on candidate states complying with EU treaties and regulations known as ‘acquis communautaires’.

‘‘In this case, an independent Scotland would become one of the most developed states in the EU, having complied with the ‘acquis’ for several decades.

‘‘Now that the Spanish veto has been lifted, nothing would prevent Scotland’s integration by way of an exceptional procedure, similar to the one used by the EEC when it integrated the German Democratic Republic in 1990.”

THIS is a view shared by politicians and officials in member states across the EU. The mess and anti-European sentiment displayed at Westminster over these past three years has served no one.

That said it has made the case for and attractiveness of independence to our European partners better than ever before. None of us should take any pleasure in that. The UK is galloping towards the cliff edge of a no-deal Brexit that will cost millions of jobs, damage the NHS and take away opportunities from future generations. So desperate is the situation that we have a peace-time government preparing for food and medicine shortages and martial law. That is a devastating indictment of the worst Westminster government in generations. Its decisions will ultimately hit the poorest and most vulnerable in society while the wealthiest move their assets abroad.

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The approach of the Scottish Government over the past few years has won plaudits across Europe and priceless goodwill at a time when we need it most. All this at a time when the Government at Westminster finds itself isolated among key partners and allies. One senior cabinet minister recently told me that one of the worst aspects of the situation that the Tories have got themselves into has been the damage to the UK’s international reputation.

This political self-harm benefits no-one. The relationship between London and other European capitals is strained like never before and should give no cause for pleasure. None of us wants to see our friends and neighbours making themselves poorer and damaging relations with their closest neighbours. We must remember that European solidarity applies to those in Stockholm and Swansea, Manchester and Munich as well as Dublin and Durham in equal measure.

Scotland must take advantage of this goodwill as we make the case and work towards the normality of independence. We should be clear that in doing so we seek to benefit everyone in these islands.

Scotland is better placed than any of our neighbours to help in rebuilding the UK’s relations with the rest of Europe. An independent Scotland with a full place in the decision-making forums of the European Union should use its influence to act as a bridge between the European Union and what remains of the UK.

That is a role that is badly needed now and will be even more so in the years to come.

Membership of the EU makes us wealthier through the single market, it makes us healthier through sharing of knowledge and expertise and it makes us greener through common action on climate change. None of that changes if the UK leaves the EU. A poorer and more isolated UK is bad news for Scotland in the same way that it is bad news for the rest of Europe.

That is why despite countless provocations and petulance from the British side during the Brexit negotiations Ireland has consistently and persistently made the case for European solidarity with the UK.

It is not just the hundreds of thousands of passports that the Irish have given out to fortunate UK citizens seeking a lifeboat but also the way that the Irish Government has pleaded for patience with the UK when Tory ministers turn up to talks with the EU with whatever latest Unicorn a desperate Conservative cabinet has endorsed.

Scotland should emulate that neighbourliness. I attended a number of meetings at the European institutions and I was always struck by just how closely the UK and Ireland worked together in partnership and with common goals.

ACROSS Europe states with the most difficult histories find common ground as equal partners and in so doing building peace, prosperity and progress for all citizens. This is a huge achievement and one that is unique in European history.

With friendly two members states in these islands on its northern and western borders the UK would be better placed to rebuild its battered relationship with the rest of Europe. Like it or not the European Union will remain the UK’s most important strategic and economic partner.

With our common bonds of friendship, communications and alignment with the UK, Scotland is uniquely well placed to act as a bridge to Europe. That will be good for Scottish universities, businesses and our young people but critically it will be good for everyone in the UK.

None of us want to see our friends and relatives in our biggest and closest neighbour suffer because of the duplicity of Vote Leave and incompetence of the two biggest Westminster parties.

European solidarity is about working with friends in difficult circumstances. The UK is going through a difficult period, Scotland should not be held back and independence will deliver a better country with strong links to the rest of the EU but it does not mean we can’t help. We should show some European solidarity with what remains of the UK and act as a Bridge to Europe rebuilding and reconnecting in the years to come.

That is what good friends and neighbours are for and its why the whole of the UK will benefit from independence and a true partnership of equals in these islands.

Stephen Gethins is the Foreign Affairs and Europe Spokesperson for the SNP Group at Westminster and MP for North-East Fife