The process of an independent Scotland rejoining the European Union could be relatively speedy, a senior German MEP has said. Elmar Brok said there would be few technical obstacles to overcome if the political will was there to allow it to happen.
Mr. Brok also suggested Europe's opposition to independence had softened as a result of the Brexit vote. But he said much would depend on the attitude of countries such as Spain. Mr Brok is the former chairman of the European Parliament's foreign affairs committee, and a member of Angela Merkel's CDU party.
Speaking in the House of Commons last month, Prime Minister Theresa May insisted Scotland would be leaving the EU regardless of whether or not it was independent. She added: What we need now is to unite, to come together as a country and to ensure that we can get the best deal for the whole of the United Kingdom.
But Mr. Brok said that Scotland has our sympathy after the country voted by 62% to 38% for the UK to remain part of the EU in last year's referendum, despite the UK as a whole voting to leave.
He told BBC Scotland: If there is a possibility that the United Kingdom breaks - which we do not hope - then I think we should have a positive relationship with Scotland to find solutions. We would like to have Britain as a whole in the European Union. If parts would come, I would be the last one who would be against it.
Brok stressed that any independence referendum would need to be approved by London - something that Mrs. May has already ruled out, repeatedly arguing that now is not the time for another vote on the issue. Instead, she has pledged to get the best possible deal for the UK as a whole, and has called on the Scottish government to focus on that rather than another independence referendum.
Her Scottish secretary, David Mundell, has said that Mrs. May's now could include the Brexit process, the journey of leaving and people being able to understand what the UK's new relationship with the EU is, so they can make an informed choice if there was ever to be another referendum.
That has led to speculation that First Minister Nicola Sturgeon may consider holding a consultative referendum - similar to one held in Catalonia after the Spanish government refused to grant permission for one.
He also said there was no queue to join the EU, with each candidate country being judged on its own merits. Mr Brok said: Scotland is a member of the European union and fulfils all of the conditions. There will be not many technical problems.
He agreed that Brexit meant now there was more sympathy for the idea of Scottish independence among the other 27 EU member states than there had been ahead of the 2014 referendum.