A NEW  'Scotland House' hub in Rome would be "most welcome", according to Italy's ambassador to the UK.

Raffaele Trombetta, the Italian Ambassador to the UK, made his comments after meeting First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in Edinburgh during a two day visit to Scotland last week.

His visit to Scotland was his first diplomatic mission since Covid restrictions eased with his 40-minute meeting with Ms Sturgeon taking place in Bute House.

The trip was designed to help forge closer cultural, trade and academic ties between the two countries and to thank the First Minister for supporting Italian citizens living in Scotland post Brexit.

HeraldScotland:

Raffaele Trombetta, the Italian Ambassador to the UK, meeting First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in Edinburgh last Monday.

The Scottish Government have several hubs across the EU, including in Paris, Dublin, Brussels and Berlin. A new headquarters is to open in Copenhagen this Spring with plans for one in Warsaw during the current parliament. But currently there are no Scottish Government plans for an HQ in Rome.

Asked if he would like to see a new Scottish Government office open in Rome, the ambassador said: "Well of course it's for the Scottish Government to decide that, so I can't comment on that. But if they did decide then I'm sure they would be most welcome in Italy."

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is planning to hold a second independence referendum next year and take Scotland back into the EU.

As part of the campaign the Scottish Government are seeking to increase their influence in the EU as part of a bid to win over international public opinion on a new vote but also to ease access to the bloc if Scots vote yes.

However, Mr Trombetta said the issue of Scottish independence and EU membership did not come up in the meeting with Ms Sturgeon.

Asked if there a recognition in Italy that Scotland did not vote for Brexit, he said: "Honestly, as a diplomat I cannot comment on internal affairs."

Mr Trombetta was also reluctant to discuss how long it would take for an independent Scotland to join the EU.

EU expert Anthony Salamone said: "The Scottish Government's representative offices are important conduits to promote trade and investment, educational opportunities and cultural exchange between Scotland and other countries.

"They also link Scotland to major policy developments and debates in the rest of Europe which have an impact on us. Italy is third largest state in the European Union and often an influential member. If the Scottish Government wants to be connected to the EU, it should invest more in Scotland's relationship with Italy.

"As the ambassador's comments make clear, Italy would welcome a Scottish Government office in Rome, as a means to further practical cooperation between Italy and Scotland. Like every EU member state, Italy does not want to become involved in the Scottish independence debate. Whether on the bilateral relationship generally or a future office in Rome specifically, the Scottish Government should ensure that the focus is on how Scotland and Italy can gain from working together, leaving constitutional politics aside."