THE deputy leader of the largest party in the European Parliament has hinted that Scotland’s application to join the EU could be accelerated if it becomes independent.

Esther De Lange, a Dutch MEP and vice chair of the centre-right European People’s Party, was asked by the Sunday National for her view on Scotland becoming a new member.

She said: “There’s the lawyer’s answer and the political answer. First of all the lawyer’s answer which is of course now that Scotland is in the United Kingdom, for Scotland to become independent they would have to work with the arrangements that you have in the United Kingdom.

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“In the previous referendum in the end it was a No to independence, but if and when Scotland were to become independent, any lawyer will say if at that time the UK had already left Scotland would have to reapply. So that is the legalistic answer and then I think Scotland would have a lot of sympathy in this house, having worked with Scottish colleagues for a long long time.”

She then raised the possibility of whether membership could be accelerated.

The National:

“Of course there are those who say since they have been a member, couldn’t it be speeded up? That is a political question that is much harder to answer than the formal legal one.

“I would say, yes they could rejoin. Yes of course there is a procedure to go through,” she said.

Pressed, she initially said she couldn’t answer as the situation had never arisen before pointing out that Scotland already had in place most of the “acquis communautaire” which is the legislative framework under which the EU operates.

She said: “I can’t answer that question as the situation has never before arisen. I would assume that compare it with any other candidate country that we have at the moment.

“You would be more ready to join as you would still have most of the acquis communautaire so that could make it easier for you compared to a country where the rule of law is not in order, where journalists are in prison, where they are not ready to take up our laws.

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“But there is a procedure which would need to be followed. You become a candidate and all the boxes need to be ticked.”

De Lange’s party colleagues Ivan Stefanec, an MEP from Slovakia, and Jose Manuel Fernandes, an MEP from Portugal, were also sympathetic to an independent Scotland becoming a new member of the bloc.

Stefanec described Brexit as “very painful” before noting that “Scottish people are very pro-European” and he would welcome the new state joining.

“Brexit is very painful for everyone. So I wish it wouldn’t happen. No one knows what is going on. I hope Brexit will be finalised soon, whether to stay or not. I would prefer if the UK stayed,” he said.

The National:

“I would support [an independent Scotland] becoming a member of the EU, of course. The EU is a union of free nations and [on] any state joining the EU everyone has to agree of course.”

He added: “But my personal opinion is that Scottish people are very pro-European and would be very welcome in the EU.”

He went on to point out that his own country had benefitted economically as an independent member of the bloc.

“Slovakia has become more prosperous as independent, but also it became more prosperous as a member of the European Union. We are a very small nation,” he said.

“We are a very pro-export orientated economy, 90% of our GDP is from exports. We benefit very much from the European common market. And I wish every small country will be a member of our common market.”

Fernandes added: “I like Scotland. I’m not against Scotland joining the European Union if it does become a new [independent] country and fulfils the Copenhagen criterion.”