Scotland’s Constitutional Relations Secretary has said there is a path open for an independent Scotland to “walk into” EU membership.

Mike Russell said there has been a “huge change” in the EU’s attitude towards Scotland, where 62% of people voted remain in the 2016 referendum.

He was speaking after a former president of the European Council said he thinks EU attitudes towards Scottish independence have changed due to Brexit.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at the Edinburgh FringeFirst Minister Nicola Sturgeon wants a second referendum on Scottish independence (Jane Barlow/PA)

Herman Van Rompuy told the BBC: “I think there is a change, yes, because for a lot of people they are looking at what Scottish people are in favour of.

“They want to stay in the European Union and at the same time they are prevented to stay in the European Union because there is this Brexit case, and there is not much sympathy for the Brexit case in the European Union, not among the leaders and not among the men and women in the street.”

He added: “There is much more sympathy for regions – parts of a country – that want to join the European Union.”

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Mr Van Rompuy said that the result of any Scottish independence referendum would have to be considered “very seriously” by the EU if it had been legally agreed and was constitutional.

He also said that all 27 member states would have to agree for Scotland to join.

Mr Russell told BBC Sunday Politics Scotland: “There is a sea change in attitude. There is no solidarity with the UK, the UK has, of course, behaved pretty appallingly towards the EU and in those circumstances, they look at Scotland, they look at our desire to be in the EU and they understand that so there is a huge change.

“The EU is a rules-based organisation, that’s something the UK doesn’t understand so there are rules to be gone through, nobody has ever denied that but what this does is it places us on the same footing as anybody else and in actual fact in a better position because we have observed the rules of the EU for the last 40 plus years, we know what those rules are and we can meet them so this essentially means there is a path open to an independent Scotland to be a normal European country, something which I think many people will be pleased about.”

Asked whether it would still be a policy for Scotland to become a full member of the EU if it were to become independent he replied: “There is a path open for Scotland to walk into EU membership.

“There are of course things to be done, there is a great deal of hard work but it can be done and that is the big issue.”

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has already said she wants to have another referendum on leaving the UK in the second half of 2020, however, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has stated his opposition to a second vote on the issue.

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said: “There are very real questions about whether an independent Scotland would be able to re-join the EU, not least because Scotland’s notional deficit is more than double that allowed under EU rules.

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“I am very clear that Scotland’s future is better served by staying in the United Kingdom, keeping the pound, retaining control over our democratic rights, and having control over our own fishing waters.

“In 2014 people in Scotland voted decisively to remain part of the United Kingdom.

“The Scottish Government promised it would be a once-in-a-generation decision. They must respect the result of the referendum.”