INDEPENDENT Scottish membership of the European Union would be supported in Poland due to the two countries’ close, historic connections, according to senior MEP Jacek Saryusz-Wolski.

Saryusz-Wolski, who negotiated Poland’s entry to the bloc, said his country “would be strong supporters of Scotland being in the EU”.

“If Scots chose independence obviously mine and I think the Polish attitude for various reasons – one thousand year long history of links between Scotland and Poland – we would be strong supporters of Scotland being in the EU,” Saryusz-Wolski said.

“I think we sympathise with everything that binds Scotland to continental Europe,” the Warsaw MEP added.

His remarks strengthens the claim that Westminster’s chaotic handling of Brexit is causing a shift of views in European capitals.

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Saryusz-Wolski added that he believed Scottish accession would be “relatively easy” given its pre-existing alignment with EU law.

“I think it would be relatively easy given the closeness of your legal system. Scotland as part of the UK is part of the acquis communautaire [EU law regulations], so it should not be a problem in terms of fulfilling the membership criteria. For that reason I think that Scotland’s place is in Europe,” he said.

During nearly 30 years in politics, Saryusz-Wolski twice led Polish-EU integration policy, served as a vice-president in the European Parliament, and was the Polish government’s candidate for president of the European Council in 2017.

Polish politicians have shown “tremendous” support for Scotland, according to SNP MEP Alyn Smith, who previously studied at the College of Europe in Warsaw. Former Polish cabinet ministers Janusz Lewandowski and Michał Boni, both currently MEPs, have also made supportive public statements about Scotland.

For Saryusz-Wolski, Brexit has undoubtedly played a part in increasing goodwill. He said: “I’m traumatised when I look at what’s happening ... after so many years – almost 60 years – to leave is madness.”

This deep affinity with the European project stems from history. Polish independence was snuffed out in a partition by the Austrian, Prussian, and Russian empires in the late 18th century. Its short-lived second republic endured a similar fate – crushed under the duopoly of Nazi and Soviet totalitarianism.

The National: Poland suffered the worst atrocities of the Second World War, including many concentration campsPoland suffered the worst atrocities of the Second World War, including many concentration camps

DURING the Second World War, as it became the slaughterhouse of Nazi genocide and Soviet massacres, Poland lost nearly a fifth of its population – the highest death rate of any country. Its capital, following the Warsaw risings of 1943-44, was subject to near total destruction. Independence in Europe was only reclaimed after the collapse of Soviet control in 1989.

“The main reason for Poland joining was to be in the family of nations and for peace. My nation was so traumatised by wars over the centuries,” Saryusz-Wolski explained.

Today, support for the EU is above 90% in Poland. “The EU is the cornerstone of European peace and security,” Saryusz-Wolski added.

The struggle for liberation connects Saryusz-Wolski to Scotland. His father was stationed with the Polish 1st Armoured Division, tasked with protecting Scotland’s coastline from invasion.

That link brought a young Jacek to Monifieth, near Dundee, in 1968 as a student. He sailed around the country from the east to west coast, and fell in love with the landscape.

His time in Scotland also brought a moment of clarity on European democracy and the need to return home to fight for it: “I looked upon Soviet tanks entering Prague on a TV screen in Dundee and had to decide whether to return or not.” This event, which also coincided with the European Common Market debate, inspired his lifelong work for European co-operation.

Ever since then, Scotland has been his “second emotional home”, leading to regular visits and an understanding of the ties that bind the countries.

Scotland and Poland share more than half a millennium of history, including mass migrations in both directions. In the 16th century tens of thousands of Scots settled across Poland, particularly in Krakow, where a Scottish district was formed. The emigres became part of the tapestry of national life.

In a poetic role reversal, Poles are now a prominent part of Scottish public life. Today, around 99,000 Polish nationals live in Scotland – by far the largest non-UK nationality.

Former Polish prime minister and current European Council president Donald Tusk cited the Scots who helped build his home town of Gdansk in a speech marking 60 years since the landmark Treaty of Rome. Earlier this year, he applauded the call to “leave a light on” for Scotland to rejoin the EU.

The National: Donald Tusk was willing to 'leave a light on' for Scotland to rejoin the EUDonald Tusk was willing to 'leave a light on' for Scotland to rejoin the EU

Saryusz-Wolski stood against Tusk, unsuccessfully, as the Polish government’s candidate for the EU top job as part of the domestic political schism between Tusk’s Civic Platform and the governing Law and Justice Party.

BEYOND EU membership, the Scottish Government is keen to promote trade and co-operation with European partners. Scottish Government minister Ivan McKee met with Poland’s energy minister Krzysztof Tchórzewski in January to discuss renewable energy expansion opportunities, while external affairs minister Fiona Hyslop has repeatedly met Poland’s UK ambassador.

In Warsaw, there is sadness regarding Britain’s political decline. British military, security service, and diplomatic interventions have – in the past – been a bulwark for the Polish national interest from Russian or German expansion. The Polish Government-in-exile was based in London from 1940-1990.

But today, as Poles look with trepidation to Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s latest manoeuvres and the crisis in Ukraine, the European Union is key. Britain’s retreat from that project sows doubts.

“There is war on our Eastern frontiers – Georgia, Ukraine. We have aggressive Russia. Member states are quarrelling with each other,” Saryusz-Wolski explains as a note of concern.

What then is the solution for Europe and for Brexit? “I would hope that the English listen to Scots when making the decision on quitting Europe,” he pleads.

Yet Boris Johnson’s history suggests our hopes will ultimately be best placed elsewhere, rekindling an older history. Many across Europe are coming to the same conclusion.