AN independent Scotland would be warmly welcomed into the European Union by Danes, according to a former Danish government minister.

Lykke Friis, who served as climate, energy and gender equality minister between 2009 and 2011 and is now head of Think Tank EUROPA, also advised Scotland to form strong alliances now with other northern European states including Scandinavia and the Baltic nations.

She suggested Scotland should join the Nordic Council – whose members include Denmark, Greenland and Iceland – in a move to increase the country’s influence in the region and on Europe.

She made her comments in a podcast interview with Dr Kirsty Hughes, director of the Scottish Centre on European Relations, which was broadcast last night.

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Asked by Hughes how Denmark would respond to an independent Scotland wanting to join the EU, Friis said that while it might be difficult from the Copenhagen government point of view – as the bloc was involved in access talks with southern European states – it would be popular.

“From the public opinion point of view that would be popular,” she said.

She added: “Scotland is also sometimes seen as a northern country, you could strike an alliance to that.”

Pressed on what advice she would give to Scotland as a new member state in the EU in ten years, Friis said: “I would say it should join the Northern Council because that would give you the legitimacy of being a northern European country and that sort of co-operation ... is an informal one between the northern countries, Sweden, Finland, Norway and so forth.

“There has also been the attempt to have co-operation with the Baltic countries.”

Friis is the second senior European figure to speak out in recent days to back an independent Scotland joining the EU.

Last week Greek MEP Maria Spyraki said Scotland will always have a place in the EU after leaving the Union – and would have an easier accession route than some states in southern Europe.

Montenegro hopes to join the EU in 2025 and is the most advanced Western Balkan state in the talks with the bloc.

The new government, which is believed to be pro-Russian and pro-Serbian, has stated that EU membership remains its top priority but Spyraki said the process would be easier for an independent Scotland.

“Now for the EU, Scotland is not Montenegro and, as a result, if Scotland decides eventually to come to our side of the EU, in spite of consequences for the whole of the United Kingdom, we shall be here to welcome Scotland,” said Spyraki.

Referring to the former MEP and now MP Alyn Smith’s request to Brussels to “leave the light on for Scotland”, she added: “As my colleague who left the European Parliament along with other colleagues of mine in a very touching moment, we shall never leave Scotland alone because Scotland has greatly contributed to what [the] EU is today.”

Friis also discussed the issue of how the Danish government would regard an application by Scotland to join.

She said it faced a more complex situation as it may be wary of allowing Scotland to queue jump amid fears of how such a move would be perceived among southern European nations awaiting membership – and that this could increase existing tension between the bloc and its southern neighbours.

She added: “I would say from having studied enlargement for quite some years, I think it’s going to be difficult.

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“You could say ‘jumping the queue’ to use that expression. I’m rather certain south east Europe are already very disappointed with the European Union.”

However, she went on to say that political factors in negotiations were important and that Denmark was a “flexible” nation.

The Nordic Council is the body for formal inter-parliamentary cooperation among the Nordic countries. Formed in 1952, it has 87 representatives from Denmark, Finland and Norway as well as from smaller islands.