A GERMAN politician poised to play a key role in future Brexit talks has said an independent Scotland could quickly come back into the EU.

David McAllister, who chairs the European Parliament’s committee on foreign affairs, hinted that he would be ready to assist with any future request from the Government in Edinburgh, and that he had already spoken to Scottish universities.

The SNP said it was proof that the only way for Scotland to retain its EU membership was “by becoming independent.”

In an interview with the Hanover-based Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland (RND), McAllister also hit out at Boris Johnson’s claims that the EU would pick up the tab for any bridge between Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The National: Boris Johnson

McAllister described Brexit as a “historic mistake that will have serious consequences for the United Kingdom.”

The MEP said Johnson faced huge challenges and that a new round in the fight for Scottish independence had started.

“There is tension between the four nations in the UK. The majority of people in Northern Ireland and Scotland voted to remain in the EU during the Brexit referendum in 2016.”

McAllister declined to say if he personally supported independence, telling RND: “I visit Scotland every year and watch the Scottish media every day. Among my friends and acquaintances are both supporters and opponents of independence. The topic is discussed passionately.”

READ MORE: European Commission officials leave door open on Scotland rejoining the EU

He added: “I’m holding back diplomatically. This is a British or Scottish affair."

Asked if an independent Scotland could become a member of the EU, McAllister replied: “That is currently a theoretical question. The first requirement for this would be that Scotland becomes an independent state.

“Since the EU legal system is part of the United Kingdom in Scotland, an admission procedure would probably be shorter than for a country that has to gradually move closer to the EU in legal, economic and political terms.”

He added: “In the end, the European Parliament decides by majority on the admission of each new Member State.

“Regardless of that, it is now about completely different questions. The UK is leaving the EU, but we remain connected in many ways. So I am already being contacted by Scottish institutions whether I can be their contact person in Brussels after Brexit.

READ MORE: Brexit: EU chief urges Boris Johnson to consider extending talks

“Scottish universities, for example, would like to continue participating in EU research funding and the Erasmus+ academic exchange program.

The National: University of Edinburgh

“In Brussels I have a close connection to both the UK office and the Scotland House. This will remain so.”

The UK is on course to leave the EU on January 31 following MPs voting in favour of the EU Withdrawal Agreement Bill earlier this month. With Johnson’s Tories now commanding a significant Commons majority, it is expected to complete its parliamentary journey when MPs return in the New Year.

Once the UK leaves the EU at the end of January it will then enter a transition phase where it will abide by EU rules while talks take place between the two sides on the future trading relationship.

Johnson amended the EU Withdrawal Bill to ensure the transition period could not be extended beyond December 2020.

Nicola Sturgeon has said the move increases the chances of the UK leaving the EU without a deal as trade talks are likely to take longer than 11 months.

The National: Nicola Sturgeon arrives to cast her vote

The First Minister wants to hold an independence referendum in the second half of next year and has written to the Prime Minister asking for the powers to make that vote legally watertight.

READ MORE: What now for Brexit? The challenges and deadlines facing the UK

The SNP’s George Adam welcomed the comments: "The only way Scotland can retain our EU membership is by becoming independent.

“Political figures across Europe have enormous sympathy for Scotland’s position, where we are being dragged out of the EU against our will.

“This significant intervention is yet more proof that the door is being kept firmly open for an independent Scotland to rejoin the EU.”

Our European Parliament source said McAllister would likely play a “key role” in future Brexit talks.

The source added: “Many senior members of the European Parliament remain privately open to a future application by an independent Scotland to join the EU. They see Brexit for what it is – a project of nativist English elites.”

Who is Mac? The Broons reading German MEP

DAVID McAllister, the chair of the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs, known to many of his friends as Mac, is a centre-right, Rangers supporting, Irn-Bru drinking German politician who was once tipped to be Angela Merkel’s successor as Chancellor.

Born in West Berlin in 1971 to James McAllister, a Glaswegian serving with the Signal Corps, and Mechthild, a music teacher, he was brought up on the Beano and the Broons and spent most of his early years in a British military base.
When his father’s time in the army was up the family decided to remain in Germany, moving to the small town of Bad Bederkesa in Lower Saxony in 1982.
Much later he became state Prime Minister of Lower Saxony, northern Germany, responsible for 8 million Germans.

That he was just 32 at the time, the youngest ever parliamentary leader in the German state parliament, only helped fuel speculation about a rise to the top. 
However, the CDU-FDP Coalition lost control of Lower Saxony in 2013, with McAllister being turfed out of office. 

He was elected to the European Parliament the following year. He currently serves as the vice-chairman of the International Democrat Union, and the vice-president of the European People’s Party.

A lawyer by profession he has both German and British passports, and has been a member of Merkel’s CDU since turning 17.