AN independent Scotland could be “top of the list” to join the European Union, one expert has claimed.

Barbara Lippert, the director of research at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs in Berlin, added that Brexit had been a “gamechanger” for many in Europe in understanding why some Scots want to leave the UK.

She said she believed there would now be “broad openness” to an independent Scotland becoming part of the EU.

The whole UK left the European Union last year, despite Scots having voted against the move in the 2016 Brexit referendum, and the Scottish Government hopes an independent Scotland would be able to again be part of the group.

Lippert, who is an expert in EU enlargement, insisted that Scotland would not be put “in the same basket” as Western Balkan states looking to join, such as Montenegro, Serbia, and Albania.

The German told an online event, organised by the European Movement in Scotland, that Scotland has a “far better image” than those nations.

She added that in terms of membership criteria “Scotland will look like a bright spot”.

She stated: “I think it will be top of the list of candidates, maybe together with Iceland and other Efta (European Free Trade Association) countries, which could also line up in the future.”

READ MORE: US finance website says Scottish independence is 'only a matter of time'

Another expert, James Ker-Lindsay, a visiting professor at the London School of Economics, dismissed any suggestion Scotland would have to “get in the queue” to join behind other nations, who had already said they wanted to join the EU.

He told the event: “I’ve seen people say this, if Scotland wants to become independent, if it wants to join the European Union it is just going to have to get in line behind the Western Balkans.

“And there is absolutely no reason to believe that is the case at all. That is not how EU enlargement works.

“It is simply a case with the European Union if you are ready, and there is a political will to take you in, then you join. You don’t have to defer that membership behind any other country that might be in advance of you.”

He added: “In many ways I could see the European Union wanting to take Scotland in to show that enlargement is still something.”

Professor Ker-Lindsay said Scotland could have a “very fast accession” in terms of negotiating its entry into the EU, but noted ratification could take longer.

“This is not going to be something that happens overnight,” he added.

It comes as Clive Lewis said Scots face a clear choice between becoming an independent nation in the EU or being "ruled by English nationalists" under the Union.

The Labour MP and former party leadership contender made the comments as he hit out at Sir Keir Starmer axing the party's support for European free movement when he appeared on the BBC's Andrew Marr show last week.

"Post-Brexit it now seems increasingly clear the Scottish people have two clear choices before them: 1. Union with a declining imperial power, ruled by hard-right, neoliberal English nationalists – or ... vote for Scottish independence and look to rejoin the EU, an emerging power with democratic institutions gaining in power, not receding. Hmmmm," he wrote on Twitter last night.

READ MORE: Labour MP says Scots face choice between independence and 'right-wing' UK rule

Lewis, who stood in last year's Labour leadership contest won by Starmer, hit out at Starmer's abandonment of the party's backing for free movement. 

"What I think [Starmer] actually meant to say was, respecting party democracy, he would seek to overturn the UK Labour policy of free movement at our next annual conference. Top down, policy by diktat rarely ends well," he added.

His comments were welcomed by independence supporters, highlighted by senior Tories and criticised by Scottish Labour politicians.

Gill Steelenson wrote: "Absolutely this. I’m an English bird who lives in Scotland and I support Scottish Independence in the EU.  We all saw how Ireland was central to the EU negotiations over Brexit, and we see Scotland told to shut up and put up by both Boris and Starmer."

Scottish Tory MSP Murdo Fraser drew attention to Lewis's comments saying: "Why Labour cannot be trusted on the Union: No. 139 of Series 2."

Nicola Sturgeon is to present the case for independence at an international event organised by a major European media outlet later this month.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon will make independence case to Europe at major event

The move follows increased reporting and commentary in global newspaper and television forums – including on CNN – with the nation’s constitutional debate and the tensions among the four parts of the UK since the Brexit referendum in 2016 and the eventual departure from the single market on December 31.

With a series of polls showing majority of support for Scotland leaving the UK to rejoin the EU as an independent member state, the First Minister is headlining the event where she will speak on Scottish independence, Brexit and the state of the Union when she takes part in the online Irish Times’s Winter Nights Festival. She will be in conversation with the celebrated Irish Times columnist and author Fintan O’Toole.

Taoiseach Micheal Martin, European Commissioner Mairead McGuiness and actor Gabriel Byrne will also be taking part in the event organised by the Dublin-based newspaper from January 25 to 29.