MSPs visiting Brussels in a bid to gauge support for a differentiated Brexit arrangement say they have found a "deep well of good will" towards Scotland.

Members of Holyrood's European Committee have been examining the possibility of Scotland retaining some form of connection with both the European Union (EU) and the single market.

They met with senior German MEP David McAllister, vice president of the European People's Party in the European Parliament, and Belgian MEP Philippe Lamberts, part of the Greens-European Free Alliance.

MSPs also held talks with representatives from the European Policy Centre, the Faroe Islands commission to the European Union, the Law Society and the Scottish Government.

Committee convener Joan McAlpine said there was "deep disappointment" in Brussels at the decision by Prime Minister Theresa May to take the UK out of the single market.

She said: "They were all very, very clear that it would not be possible for Britain to cherry pick the best bits of EU membership and the single market.

"The EU 27 are going to negotiate as one so any hope that Britain might have had of picking off the Germans or the Poles or the Spaniards, that is not the way that they're going to negotiate and they feel that the British Government perhaps don't understand that.

"Another very, very clear message was that there's no way a trade agreement is going to be put in place within two years.

"Theresa May seems to think that she'll get most of it done within the two years - that's completely unrealistic."

SNP ministers have been pressing for a separate deal which could allow Scotland to remain part of the trading bloc, even if the rest of the UK leaves.

Ms McAlpine continued: "There is a lot of sympathy, better understanding of where Scotland is and real appreciation at the fact that Scotland voted Remain.

"But there's a realism that if Scotland is to be considered as part of the UK, it's up to the UK Government to put it on the table as part of the negotiations.

"The UK is the member state so the ball is in their court."

She added: "It's fair to say that there's a number of people saying that if Scotland chose to become an independent country that would be a different matter but that's further down the line."

Committee member and Green MSP Ross Greer said: "Two things became abundantly clear early in our committee's trip; that there is a deep well of good will to Scotland from the rest of Europe and that the Westminster government's rhetoric is far off the reality of the Brexit process and its aftermath.

"The positive feelings towards Scotland were clear, though.

"We have friends across Europe who are concerned that our voice isn't being listened to inside the UK and that the Westminster government seems to have made compromise with the Scottish Government's proposals impossible.

"Special treatment for an independent Scotland however, which would keep us in the EU, is clearly an option many in Europe are very open to."

MSPs will meet tomorrow with Danuta Hubner, the chairman of the Parliament's Constitutional Affairs Committee.