SCOTLAND will be represented at a major conference this week which aims to help shape the future of Europe on “neglected issues”, including the right to self-determination and minority languages.

The event, being held in Brussels on Tuesday, will bring together community leaders, academics and human right advocates from a range of places including the Basque Country, Galicia, Catalonia, Corsica, Cornwall, Ireland and Flanders.

The discussions will lead to the submission of a written contribution to the Conference on the Future of Europe, which is currently taking place with member states putting forward policy proposals which are then considered by EU lawmakers.

Stephen Gethins, professor of practice at the University of St Andrews’s school of international relations and a former SNP MP, will take part in a roundtable discussion on “how to put the right to self-determination to work”.

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He told the Sunday National it was even more important after Brexit that Scotland’s voice is heard in Europe.

He said: “Obviously Scotland’s potential accession to the EU in the near future is of great interest and it is important for people in Scotland, regardless of their views on the constitution, to continue to maintain links and talk to friends and colleagues across Europe.

“This event is part of the Conference on the Future of Europe which is being undertaken at the moment. That is something the EU as a whole does every few years so it can update its treaties, and there is a wide conversation about the EU which takes place.

“It is important to add Scottish voices to that, as obviously we see our future as part of the EU and so whatever comes out of the Conference on the Future of Europe will be of material consequence to those of us who live in Scotland.”

Gethins said he would be talking about Scotland’s right to self-determination and the increased support for independence.

“That drive towards independence is something which generates interest, which is nice,” he said.

“It’s also nice we’re being taken seriously enough to be included as part of the conversation on the future of Europe.

“But that also has responsibilities to engage with our European partners and to provide thought on how the future of the EU should work and responsibilities in terms of taking EU accession seriously.”

He added: “You don’t have the same infrastructure in terms of engagement or influence within the EU as you used to – as part of a ‘third country’ [non-EU country] you need to work that little bit harder on maintaining links and some influence.”

Gethins said he would also be emphasising the lessons to be drawn from Brexit – that being a member of the EU is important and should not be taken for granted.

“It means you always need to be having a conversation about Europe, about its benefits, but also as a passionate pro-European criticise Europe as well and see where it could be doing better,” he said.

“A national conversation – and an honest conversation – about membership of the EU is something that needs be happening on an ongoing basis, which feeds into why this series of meetings that the EU generates around Conference for the Future of Europe is important for us to be contributing to.”

Xabier Macías, president of the think tank Coppieters Foundation, which is organising the event, said the Conference on the Future of Europe offered the chance to form a Europe which will “respect the right to self-determination, subsidiarity and greater multi-level governance while promoting a true cultural and linguistic diversity and a fairer, socially just and greener Europe”.

He added: “For us to achieve such a vision, we must be proactive if we ever hope to influence this timely democratic exercise.

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“That’s why we want to bring together community leaders, academics, human rights advocates from places like the Basque Country, Catalonia, Scotland, Wales, Corsica, Galicia, Cornwall, Ireland or Flanders to raise issues often neglected.

“We want to pay special attention to cultural and linguistic diversity and how to promote Europe’s minoritised languages.

“We want to work towards improving our democracy and ensuring all voices are heard, as well as developing institutional systems to implement the right of self-determination at the EU level.

“We want to outline a Europe of tomorrow that recognises all voices and that supports peaceful and democratic conflict resolution efforts.”