THE CHAIRMAN of a European Parliament committee has called on Scottish politicians to continue informal links with Brussels but has stressed the importance of maintaining a Scottish voice in official dialogue through the UK Government.

Appearing at Holyrood’s Constitution, Europe, External Affairs and Culture Committee, MEP David McAllister, who chairs the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, told MSPs that in the future “we need to seek ways to broaden and to deepen our EU-UK partnership”, following the fallout of Brexit.

He added: “I believe this would be in the interests of both sides to maintain a close and lasting co-operation given our shared values and interests – especially in an increasingly unstable world.”

Mr McAllister added that “there is potential for foreign and security policy cooperation with the United Kingdom in several areas” including intelligence and crisis management.

He said: “I do hope that we can explore that potential in the near future.”

Turning to Scotland’s continued engagement with Europe, despite the UK voting to leave the bloc in 2016, Mr McAllister said there was still an “important” channel where “Scotland should pursue its engagement with the EU by pursuing its interests with the UK Government, bearing in mind the current constitutional situation of Scotland”.

He said: “On the other hand, Scotland can pursue a different and more informal engagement with the EU within the limits, of course, of its constitutional position.

“This includes exchanges like we are having just this morning as well as less formal exchanges on topics of mutual interests, which would be particularly important.

“We are happy to have those informal contacts but also we can reach out at formal events.”

Mr McAllister said “the most important thing is that the Scottish voice is heard in the EU”.

He added: “Therefore, my advice would be to use the formal channels you have within the framework of the UK and on the other hand use the other channels you have, including the informal ones here in Brussels, to get your message across.

“Colleagues are very well aware of the fact that the people in your part of the UK, in Scotland, voted in large numbers to remain in the European Union and that is not forgotten.

“We always try to find pragmatic, flexible solutions to try to get Scotland as close as possible to the European Union.”

But he warned that “we, as a European Parliament cannot establish formal relations with a regional parliament” because “we have to respect the constitutional order”.

Mr McAllister added: “Formal cooperation is not possible but of course there are many, many, possibilities for informal co-operation.”