THE Northern Ireland protocol could offer “some template” for cross-Border trade between Scotland and England after independence, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

Speaking to the Irish Times while on the campaign trail yesterday, the First Minister discussed how an independent Scotland in the EU could manage a customs and regulatory border with its neighbour.

The SNP leader said “of course” Scotland would have to comply with the EU’s rules and regulations.

“The Northern Ireland protocol, if there are easements there, yes, I think that does offer some template,” she told the newspaper. “But we work in a proper planned way to make sure that any rules that have to be applied are applied in a way that absolutely minimises any practical difficulties for businesses trading across the England-Scotland Border.”

READ MORE: More than 170 prominent cultural figures call for EU to welcome Scotland back

She went on: “But the benefit of doing that is that we again open up free trade across the whole of the European Union, the world’s biggest single market.

Brexit had all been about narrowing Scotland’s horizons, in a trading sense but also in terms of people. Independence is about opening up those horizons again and seeing Scotland firmly as a country playing its full part in Europe and the world.”

The SNP leader also reiterated that she is confident Scotland would stay in the Common Travel Area after independence. The arrangement ensures open borders between the UK, Ireland, the Isle of Man and Channel Islands.

She said: “There is nobody with any credibility anywhere that suggests that Scotland would not continue to be in the Common Travel Area. Even the scaremongers about independence so far haven’t tried to use [that] argument.”

Sturgeon described access to the Common Travel Area plus freedom of movement across the EU as a “real win-win”.

“We’d be in the same position as the Republic of Ireland, which I think would be a really good position to be in,” she said.

READ MORE: Scottish election: Poll predicts SNP and Greens will form pro-independence majority

The interview came as Scotland marks seven days until the May 6 election. Polls from different companies have varied significantly, with some projecting a majority for Sturgeon’s party and others giving more cautious results. Today’s Savanta ComRes study suggests the party could lose two seats.

Sturgeon’s discussion of the European Union also comes as more than 170 cultural figures called for the EU to welcome an independent Scotland to the bloc.

Writers, artists, professors and others signed the letter, drawn up by the campaign group Europe for Scotland, addressed to the heads of states and governments of the EU’s 27 member states, as well as the presidents of the European Council and Commission and MEPs.

Signatories come from every single EU member state and all four UK nations, with the likes of philosopher Slavoj Zizek, musician Brian Eno and historian David Edgerton among them.