NICOLA Sturgeon has secured a meeting with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, as she embarks on a bid to keep Scotland in the European Union.
The First Minister had already confirmed talks with European Parliament President Martin Schulz and Liberal group leader and former Belgian prime minister Guy Verhofstadt, the latter of whom said yesterday that there was ‘no big obstacle’ to an independent Scotland joining the EU.
However, European Council chief Donald Tusk declined to meet with Ms Sturgeon, amid reports he felt it was ‘not the appropriate time to meet’ with the First Minister.
A spokesperson for Mr Tusk said: “Given the situation in the UK he feels it is not appropriate, but he is grateful for the invitation.”
Mr Tusk is currently chairing informal talks with heads of state to discuss the political and practical implications of last week’s referendum on EU membership.
Ms Sturgeon had been expected to scheduled a meeting with Mr Juncker in the coming weeks, but his spokesman Margaritis Schinas confirmed that talks would take place this evening.
The SNP leader was yesterday given a direct mandate by MSPs to hold direct EU talks after telling the Chamber: “I want to be clear to parliament that whilst I believe that independence is the best option for Scotland, it is not my starting point in these discussions.
“My starting point is to protect our relationship with the EU.”
But Ms Sturgeon told MSPs that a second referendum on independence could be on the cards if the Scottish Government concluded that it was the ‘best or only way to protect Scotland’s place in the EU.’
Ahead of her Brussels visit, Ms Sturgeon said: “My objective at this very early stage is firstly to raise awareness of the fact that Scotland voted differently in this referendum to the UK as a whole and that there is an aspiration and desire in Scotland, cross-party, to protect Scotland’s relationship with the European Union and our place in the EU.
“And secondly, to begin the process of mapping out and exploring what the options for Scotland might be.
“I’m very aware that this is a long process ahead of us, it’s likely to be a difficult and challenging process, but I’m determined that we take every possible step to protect Scotland’s interests at every stage of it.”