DEVOLUTION has ensured Scotland is a “distinct political community within Europe”, according to Fiona Hyslop.

At a reception at Scotland House in Brussels today to mark the 20th anniversary of devolution, the External Affairs Secretary will meet newly elected MEPs and EU officials including first vice-president of the European Parliament Mairead McGuinness.

In a speech, Hyslop will outline Scotland’s commitment to working with European partners and emphasise the Scottish Government’s preference for the country to remain part of the EU. She is expected to say: “Devolution has transformed politics in Scotland. It has ensured beyond any doubt that Scotland is a distinct political community within Europe.

“This is undoubtedly a pivotal period for the EU. It is also a critical time for Scotland.

“Decisions taken over the next few months will impact on us all for years to come.”

She will add: “I want to assure you that we are as committed now, as we were 20 years ago, to building and co-operating together.

“We will keep welcoming our European friends to celebrate and work with us.

“From many research projects such as the pioneering renewables initiatives on Orkney, to major infrastructure schemes on the Western Isles, Scotland has benefited massively from working with European partners, as well as contributing our world-leading expertise and innovation.”

Scottish Tory MSP Maurice Golden, however, claimed that Hyslop’s trip to Brussels is only intended to boost support for Scottish independence.

“Once again we have a senior member of the SNP taking needless trips to Brussels to talk up independence,” said Golden.

“Their motives are totally transparent, and this is yet another excuse for them to try and drive up division between Scotland and the rest of the UK.”