THE Scottish Government’s plan to open a hub in Warsaw has been dismissed by a leading European expert as a “strange” choice.

Anthony Salamone has argued the decision to establish a hub in the Polish capital didn’t make strategic sense as Poland is “in conflict” with the EU and “politically isolated”. He said The Hague, Madrid and Rome would be better locations.

The intention to open a headquarters in Warsaw by 2026 was unveiled in the programme for government in September and confirmed last month. At the same time, the Scottish Government said it would be opening an office in Copenhagen next year.

The Scottish Government already has hubs in Brussels, Berlin, Paris and Dublin and has been urged by Irish TD Neale Richmond (below), Fine Gael’ spokesman on European affairs, to open offices in every EU capital. But in a newly published submission to a Holyrood committee, Salamone raised concerns about a Warsaw hub.

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“It has been clear for some time that the Scottish Government would expand its network further, and, in the programme for government, it pledges new offices in Copenhagen and Warsaw. While purposeful expansion of the network is reasonable, in proportion to Scotland’s current constitutional position, it should be based on defined strategy,” he told MSPs in his written evidence ahead of appearing before them tomorrow. (THURS).

“To date, the Scottish Government has offered no substantive rationale for the selection of these locations. If its objective were to build strategic connectivity in the EU, Rome, Madrid and The Hague would be the logical choices.

“Given that Poland is currently a politically isolated EU member state in conflict with the EU institutions, the selection of Warsaw is a strange allocation of resources”.

Salmone, managing director of European Merchants, gave a negative assessment of the current state of Scottish/EU relations describing the situation as “strained”. He called for policy on European to be separated from Scottish independence.

With Nicola Sturgeon intends to hold a second independence referendum in 2023, Salamone said if Scots backed independence then, the earliest Scotland would be a new EU member would be by December 2030.

“The state of affairs in Scotland on European and international relations is strained,” he told the Europe committee which is holding an inquiry on the Scottish Government’s Europe and international relations policies.

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He added that Scotland will most likely not be part of the EU for the rest of this decade”.

He added: “Scotland’s EU accession process, as an independent state, could reasonably take 44-78 months, and probably 48-60 months, from the point of application to the point of accession.

“If a hypothetical referendum agreed by the Scottish and UK Governments were held in September 2023, with a result for independence, an independence transition of 36 months and an application preparation period of three months, Scotland could become an EU member state between December 2030 and December 2031.

“If the voters rejected independence, or an agreed referendum did not happen, Scotland would not join the EU. Government strategy should assume that, in any event, Scotland will not be part of the EU through at least 2030. With Brexit concluded, the Scottish Government should recognise that its central message to EU actors since the 2016 referendum – that Scotland did not support Brexit – is no longer relevant.”

He called for policy on Europe to be separated from independence to allow wider political involvement and warned post Brexit Scotland faces “significant challenges” in having influence in the EU.

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“The Scottish Government is confronted with three principal challenges. First, its access to EU institutions, policies and programmes has been reduced and is dependent on the minimal EU-UK relationship,” he wrote. “Second, its relevance in Brussels has decreased given that Scotland is neither part of the EU... nor part of the EEA...Third, it is associated with the UK Government’s approach... even though it does not wish to be so, since Scotland is part of the UK. Credible strategy should acknowledge these realities and structure engagement in response to them.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “As outlined in the Programme for Government over the lifetime of this parliament we will open an office in Warsaw to help us promote Scotland’s expertise, values and reputation in Poland, and across the central European region. We are keen to build on the rich history of education, trade and cultural links between Scotland and Poland.”