“THE work starts now” for joining the EU as an independent nation, according to University of St Andrews professor Stephen Gethins.

Speaking on the Scotland’s Choice podcast, recorded live at the Progress to Yes conference in Aberdeen on Sunday, the former MP said the Scottish Government should start preparing to join the EU as soon as possible.

"We saw a bump in terms of support for independence in 2016 with the vote of the UK to leave the EU, and of course Scotland voting to remain," Gethins (below) told listeners.

The National:

"People want Scotland to be an independent member state of the EU. That is the view of those who believe in independence, so let’s give them that certainty.

“If Scotland is going to vote for independence, you do not start the day after the independence vote when you wake up, the work starts now."

Key issues to address will include ensuring Scotland has enough staff in Brussels, keeping laws aligned with the bloc, doing an institutional audit and finding out what residents of member states feel about a new neighbour joining them.

“Now I know a lot of hard work has been ongoing from yourselves and others but there’s a lot of work to be done and that work does not have to wait for any independence referendum," he added.

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Speaking to The National, former director of the Scottish Centre on European Relations Kirsty Hughes said Scotland is somewhat limited in the preparatory work it can carry out.

“There certainly is a fair bit that could be done now to prepare for EU membership but obviously there are limits too," she explained. 

"Scotland can't, for example, align to EU laws in non-devolved areas or participate directly in EU policies in devolved areas in most cases.

“Equally, many of the necessary steps to establishing Scotland as an independent state and a full democracy and social market economy in its own right are steps that will also take it closer to EU membership."

The expert predicted it would take four-five years to join the bloc - and argued it is not a case of the sooner, the better.

“Even if it could be done in two years, that would imply a rapid transition to a full EU external border with England and it may be better to phase that in more slowly, and with a very clear set of milestones that everyone can follow, the opposite to what happened with Brexit," she went on.

Also on the podcast panel, Scottish folk singer Iona Fyfe discussed the difficulties she has experienced since the UK left the EU.

She said: “Being able to have frictionless visa-free touring opportunities in the EU is incredibly important … now that’s almost impossible and that really diminishes cultural exchange.”

Relations with other UK nations was also discussed, on which Gethins said: “I think we need to enter into independence in the spirit of generosity. England and Wales, our nearest neighbours … are going to get poorer. I think that Scottish independence could be a reset to help them rethink their place in the world.”

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Alongside SNP MP and podcast host Drew Hendry, MP Stewart Hosie completed the panel.

Discussing the role of social media in independence campaigning, Hosie said: “I think you’ve got to use every channel.

“If you’re going to use technology … You’ve got to know who the audience is. Otherwise, you end up looking like an aged politician with a hat on backwards trying to ‘get down with the kids’ and that looks quite preposterous.”

Also on social media, Fyfe said: “It’s totally fine that people debate and have educated and intellectual discussions over their differences … but when it’s just abuse, and a lot of the time it is, that’s when it’s not fine.”