HOLYROOD leaders must maximise links with Dublin to improve the chances of reentry into the EU as an independent state, according to a leading Irish legal expert.

European law specialist Professor Tobias Lock, of Maynooth University in County Kildare, says Scottish ministers must strengthen and utilise the “strong links” between Scotland and Ireland to ease the path back from Brexit.

Lock, an adviser on constitutional law to the Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Relations Committee of the Scottish Parliament, says public “sympathy” for Scotland’s situation amongst the Irish people has generated widespread support for the independence movement and interest amongst the country’s academics.

He told the Sunday National: “There is a great interest in Scotland here. There’s great sympathy on the whole towards Scotland.”

The Scottish Government has an office within the British Embassy in Dublin. Irish politician Neale Richmond TD, Fine Gael European Affairs spokesman and ex-chair of the Dail’s Brexit committee, has previously called on Scottish minister to strengthen the government’s international presence.

Lock – who was last week among the experts taking part in an online session held by the European Movement in Scotland and the Centre on European Relations – says connections between institutions, people and business all matter.

Suggesting that Ireland was a “trailblazer” in leaving the United Kingdom in 1922, Lock continued: “For Scotland to follow, I think a lot of people here would be sympathetic. There are strong links that go back in history and through migration. Irish academics are tuning into these conversations that are happening about Scotland.

“If I were in the Scottish Government I would really try to use those links, especially for a future independent Scotland trying to join the European Union. There is a lot of connection."

The comments come amidst rising international interest in the future of the UK, with Yes support strongest in 18 consecutive opinion polls and increasing support for sovereignty in Wales. Yes leaders there told the Sunday National independence could be possible within a decade.

Brexit and the Irish border issue have also raised fresh questions about Irish reunification. Scots novelist Val McDermid, a former journalist, has predicted that this could take place within five years in a “domino effect” caused by EU withdrawal.