ALYN Smith has been elected president of a key group in the European Parliament, giving the SNP unprecedented influence over the shape of the EU.

The MEP has been chosen as president of the European Free Alliance (EFA) Group, succeeding Catalan MEP Josep-Maria Terricabras.

The Greens/EFA group is estimated to have 75 MEPs in the new parliament, making it the fourth largest group.

The EFA brings together representatives of "pro-European autonomist parties, regions and minorities".

As well as his role as president of the EFA, Smith will be first vice-president of the Greens/EFA Group, which holds the balance of power in the parliament after a 40-year-old alliance between the centre-right European People’s Party and Socialists and Democrats lost its majority in the elections.

Smith said: "I'm honoured to have this vote of confidence from my colleagues, particularly during such an interesting political time. The Greens/EFA group has been a consistent voice for good in the European Parliament, and we've got an exciting future ahead of us.

"Lest we forget, Scotland voted decisively to Remain in the EU, and has just returned four pro-Remain MEPs out of six. Scotland is a European nation, and by electing a Scot from an unashamedly pro-Remain party as EFA president, I hope this shows that Scotland not only wants to play our part in contributing to this family of nations, but is also valued by the EU27.

"I also want to pay a particular tribute to Josep-Maria Terricabras for all his work over the past five years as President of the EFA Group. Catalonia could not have wished for a stronger and more effective advocate and he has served in the European Parliament with great distinction."

Scotland has six MEPs in the European Parliament, with two others from the SNP in addition to Smith.

His new position is initially for two and a half years and can be extended for the course of the five-year term.

The Greens/EFA group will have a significant say in who takes up the leadership of the European institutions, including Jean-Claude Juncker's successor as European Commission president.