NICOLA Sturgeon’s appearances on the world stage help create a sense of Scotland as a nation and show the country “doesn’t want to identify with this clown Boris Johnson”, according to a top European professor.

Professor Marlene Wind, director of the Centre for European Politics at the University of Copenhagen and an award-winning political scientist, praised the Scottish First Minister’s diplomatic efforts in an interview for France-based news outlet Euronews.

In an article focusing on Scotland’s foreign affairs work ahead of indyref2, Professor Wind notes that Brexit has “absolutely” shifted views of the country for leaders in the EU.

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Her comments come as the Scottish Government looks to expand its presence in Europe with new hubs in both Copenhagen and Warsaw. Holyrood already has bases in Brussels, Berlin, Paris and Dublin.

The First Minister has pledged to hold a fresh referendum on independence by 2023, Covid permitting, and in her Thursday Budget the Finance Secretary Kate Forbes pledged indyref2 planning would happen under Angus Robertson’s constitution brief.

The Budget document stated: “We will continue to demonstrate our commitment to EU values, our alignment with EU policy priorities, and make the necessary preparations for a Scottish referendum and subsequently for re-joining the EU as an independent member state.”

The most recent poll on Scottish independence support saw backing for Yes at its highest level for a year, with Ipsos MORI putting it at 55%. SNP support is also up in recent polling for Westminster and Holyrood.

Speaking to the European news outlet, Professor Wind reflected on the May Scottish Parliament election – in which the SNP secured a record vote share – and the First Minister’s appearances at the global COP26 summit, hosted in Glasgow last month.

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She praised Sturgeon’s international presence, telling Euronews: “I think it’s a strategy that is very very carefully thought out, that this is the way to do it.

“This is the way to appear as a leader, to go on the world stage as much as possible, to create a sense of we are a nation, we are on our own, and we don’t want to identify with this clown Boris Johnson.”

She went on: “I think behind the scenes there is a sense that Brexit has really changed things when dealing with a country [Scotland] that voted remain, that voted very very confidently to stay in Europe.”

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However, she also warned against pushing forward with indyref2 without sustained public support for independence.

“It’s also very important not to push it too quickly because they already had one shot at independence, and you cannot keep having referenda where you lose,” the professor pointed out.

READ MORE: Ruth Davidson tells Lords that Unionists are making the case for independence

Scotland’s links to Europe are being strengthened at a time when the UK’s own relations with the bloc are suffering.

On Thursday it emerged that France is planning to ask the EU to start “litigation proceedings” if the row over post-Brexit fishing licences isn’t resolved.

The European Commission has said the dispute must be settled by today (December 10) – but Downing Street said on Thursday it did not recognise the deadline, threatening to further inflame tensions between the nations.

French President Emmanuel Macron has accused the British Government of failing to keep its word on fishing licences, but said France wanted to cooperate with London.

Speaking at a press conference on Thursday to set out France’s plans for its upcoming presidency of the EU, he said relations were “difficult” between the two countries because “the current [British] Government does not do what it says”.

Macron said: “[The UK Government] signed a withdrawal agreement which requires commitments to our fishermen.

“Tomorrow we, alongside the European Commission, will find out if these agreements are not respected.

“There has been progress in recent weeks. I wish to salute that, there is a sincere re-engagement and I hope with all my heart that new paths open up.”