A TOP European Union official has signalled that Brussels would look favourably on an independent Scotland joining the bloc.

Michael Mann, the EU’s envoy to the Arctic, also said that the new state could benefit from speedier membership process than other countries which had joined in recent years.

The senior civil servant gave his views in a podcast with Dr Kirsty Hughes, director of the Scottish Centre on European Relations in Edinburgh.

Hughes asked Mann if Scotland became independent in a legal and constitutionally valid way, how would the EU respond if the country applied to join the bloc.

He said: “I am a good loyal public servant. I’m not allowed to go into hypotheticals obviously, but I will go into a hypothetical anyway.

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“But yes, the way it works is that countries, if they have what we call ‘the European vocation’, if they are European countries, they can apply to join the European Union.

“They can apply to join the EEA [European Economic Area] and what happens in the case of the European Union is that the European Commission, a kind of civil service to the European Union, does an assessment and says ‘these people have a European vocation and if they want to join we could start negotiations’.

“And that then has to be agreed by the 27 governments and then the long negotiations begin, but in a case of a country like Scotland it potentially wouldn’t be as long as they already have the body of EU law, so there wouldn’t be as much legal adjustment that has to be done.

“Some countries that join have just come out of communism, that isn’t the case in the United Kingdom.

“So anything is possible, and at the end of the day it’s up to the country that wants to join and if the European Union countries agree and come to a deal then a country can join.

“It’s a decision for any country whether it wants to be in the EU 100% or whether they just want to be in the single market.

He added: “As an EU person I think joining the EU is a tremendous idea obviously.”

Scotland voted by 62% to remain in the EU in the 2016 referendum but was forced to leave at the end of last year as the UK as a whole voted to exit.

The Conservative government rejected calls by the First Minister for the UK to stay in the single market or to allow for a special arrangement for Scotland to remain in it.

Northern Ireland was given a bespoke arrangement to enable it to have closer ties with the single market in order to avoid a hard border with the Irish Republic.

However the protocol, negotiated by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, has led to more customs checks between Northern Ireland and Britain causing tensions among the Unionist community.

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Belfast has witnessed weeks of rioting on its streets amid fears over the stability of the peace process and a return to the violence seen in the Troubles.

Both the SNP and the Greens want an independent Scotland to join the EU, while Alex Salmond’s Alba Party advocates joining the European Free Trade Association which allows members full access to the single market. Nicola Sturgeon has indicated she does not support an EU referendum being held after independence.

Former communist countries which are now EU members include Estonia, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

During the podcast Mann also praised Scotland’s co-operation with the Nordic and Artic nations.

The Scottish Government published an Arctic strategy in 2019 to promote closer economic, cultural and social links between Scotland and its neighbours to the north, including Iceland, Finland, Sweden and Norway.