AN independent Scotland would be welcomed back into the European Union within just two to three years, a Scottish Labour grandee has insisted.

David Martin – the second longest-serving MEP in Europe – said sympathy was growing in Brussels over Scotland being “forced out” of the EU against its will.

He said negotiations would be “quick” given Scotland would meet nearly all of the conditions for membership, and argued a “bespoke deal” would enable it to stay out of the eurozone.

Scottish Labour dismissed his remarks as "hypothetical statements which do not reflect Scottish Labour policy in any way, shape, or form”.

Mr Martin said Scotland’s future membership of the EU was not “high on people’s agenda” in Brussels, but added: “It is talked about, and there are people who would not previously have been sympathetic to the idea of an independent Scotland – colleagues of mine, I’m talking non-British colleagues – who now talk about it openly and say to me, ‘Are you going to be an independent country, are you likely to join as a separate country?’

“I think there is a difference between now and the time of the Scottish referendum where we were seen to be leaving a member state and we were pulling ourselves out of the EU in some people's eyes.

“This time around we (Scotland) are being forced out of the EU, which is how it is perceived here.

“They know that Scotland voted to Remain and I think they would be very sympathetic if Scotland came back and said, ‘Scotland became independent and it wants to join the EU’. It would be welcome.”

He said a bespoke deal on joining the euro would be offered “because other countries have it and it wouldn’t be a problem that you didn’t sign up to the euro”.

A major SNP report earlier this year suggested keeping the pound for at least ten years after independence, before moving towards a new currency.

It insisted Scotland would not be obliged to join the euro if it became a member of the EU, pointing to the example of other countries such as Sweden and Denmark.

Mr Martin, a Labour MEP since 1984, said plans to keep the pound – as outlined in the SNP's Growth Commission report – would probably be accepted by Brussels.

He said: “If Scotland became independent and applied, and if it wasn’t that long after we left given that we meet nearly all the conditions, the negotiations could be quick. But in the EU parlance a quick negotiation is probably a minimum of 18 months still.”

He said Scotland would not have to queue behind others seeking to gain membership – such as Montenegro, Serbia and Albania – but would “have to nevertheless go through the process of the negotiation and fulfill all the conditions”.

The veteran politician said that on top of the 18 months’ negotiation, it would take six to nine months to ratify membership, adding: “Fair wind, [if] everything went really quick, you are talking a minimum of two years – but it would probably realistically be three.”

Mr Martin previously refused to rule out backing independence in order to secure links with Europe.

A Scottish Labour spokesman insisted his remarks did not reflect party policy.

He added: “If Brexit has made one thing clear, it is that there are severe challenges in leaving a political and economic union. All of the challenges we see with leaving the EU would be repeated on a much larger scale with leaving the UK.”

An SNP spokeswoman said: “Brexit means there is now a much more positive view of an independent Scotland among our European friends and neighbours.

“And the Tories’ shambolic handling of Brexit has killed off the credibility of any future ‘Project Fear’ campaign against independence.

“Scotland has been part of the EU for 45 years, meaning we already meet the rules, so we would be very well prepared to join as an independent nation."