SCOTLAND could join the EU less than a decade after independence, an official report has found.

A Scottish Government report obtained by The Scotsman through Freedom of Information requests revealed that officials advised it could take “up to” eight years for Scotland to join the trading bloc after leaving the Union.

The advice set out a “best case” scenario, which would see Scotland on an accelerated membership pathway, which would see the country joining the EU in as little as four years.

A slower timeline put the upper limit as eight years, meaning a newly-independent Scotland would be back in Europe after less than a decade.

The undated advice predates Brexit and said its recommendations were contingent on a number of factors which made concrete predictions difficult.

These included the currency policy pursued by Scotland after independence. It is widely expected the EU would maintain its current policy and not allow Scotland to join while it is using sterling after independence, until a new currency is set up.

The advice said: “While some commentators have suggested it could take three to four years to negotiate accession, it is important to remember that Scotland will be in a unique position having already been in the EU and therefore complying with most of the acquis.

READ MORE: Everything you need to know from the Scottish Government economic case for independence

“On the other hand this timing will also depend on how the Scottish Government approaches other policy issues, including the question of an independent currency.”

Earlier in the document, it is advised: “The speed of the negotiation and ratification process is contingent on political will, the agreed final Brexit position agreed for the UK, the nature of Scotland’s exit negotiations from the UK, and any competing priorities the EU may have at that time.

“The further the final Brexit deal diverges from the current status quo, the more complex the process may become for Scotland.”

It added: “The best case scenario for Scotland would involve a total timeline three to four years and the upper limit could be up to eight years, based on Scotland acceding to the EU from third country status.”

The advice also warned that countries had historically entered the bloc as groups, adding: “There may be challenges over the timing and/or speed of a potential independent Scotland’s accession.”

It went on: “Traditionally, member states acceding the EU have done so in groups so it may be that the timing of the next accession phase is contingent on other countries concluding their negotiation agreements.”

The report added that the fasted EU accession was Finland’s – completed in just two years and nine months – while the longest period for joining was Bulgaria and Romania, which both took 12 years.

While the report noted that Scotland would be in the unique position of having previously been part of a state which was a member of the EU before leaving, it was not clear whether “the EU would be willing and able to negotiate with a Scotland in the process of transitioning to independence”.

The Scottish Government had tried to block the report from becoming public, but lost a battle with The Scotsman which successfully appealed to the Scottish Information Commissioner.

READ MORE: John Curtice gives verdict on reason for SNP's slide in political polls

In a note accompanying the release, the Scottish Government claimed the advice was “never seen” by ministers and did not “reflect current government thinking”.

The note said: “Following the Scottish Information Commissioner’s decision about the applicability of exemptions in this case, and about the scope of the request, the Scottish Government is now publishing this information in full.

“However, it should be noted that much of this information, some of which was written several years ago, was never seen by ministers and does not reflect current government thinking.

“The policy proposals in these documents were never approved by ministers and it would therefore be inaccurate to suggest that any of the details within reflect past or present government policy.

“To give people the information they need to make an informed choice about Scotland's constitutional future, ministers will shortly publish a paper setting out how an independent Scotland would re-join the EU, in order to escape the damage of Brexit and enjoy the benefits of being back in the EU as a full, equal member.

“The proposals in this paper will be open to public and expert scrutiny, following a rigorous internal civil service quality assurance process, and formal approval by ministers.”