Humza Yousaf has begun his first overseas engagement since becoming First Minister.

Mr Yousaf travelled on Monday to the Belgium capital for a brief visit that will see him speak at the European Policy Centre on the theme 'Scotland's offer to the EU - opportunities and ambitions in the new relationship’.

He will also hold meetings with members of the EU Commission and attend briefings with the British and American Chambers of Commerce to discuss investment into Scotland and international trade before returning to Scotland on Wednesday.

Mr Yousaf's visit to Brussels comes days after he addressed the SNP's independence convention in Dundee on Saturday unveiling a plan for a Scottish Government envoy to the Belgium capital if the SNP win the next general election north of the Border.

At the start of his visit the First Minister paid tribute to "steadfastly European" former SNP MEP Winnie Ewing who died last week aged 93.

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Speaking of the impact of Mrs Ewing - who was known as Madame Ecosse - had had over her lifetime, he said she had played a "key role in shaping the perception of Scotland as a true European nation".

The former SNP MP, MEP and MSP died last week, with her family by her side. Two of her children Fergus and Annabelle are SNP MSPs.

Mr Yousaf said: "Winnie Ewing was steadfastly European, and an internationalist.

"She advocated tirelessly for Scotland's interests as an outward-looking nation which collaborates with our European partners on common challenges and issues.

"The alliances and friendships which Winnie formed and pursued during her three parliamentary careers helped play a key role in shaping the perception of Scotland as a true European nation."

Mr Yousaf said that in her time as chair of the European Parliament's Education and Culture Committee Mrs Ewing had been a "key architect" of the Erasmus scheme, which allows young people to study overseas, and which benefited "tens of thousands of young Scots" until it was ended in the wake of Brexit.

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The First Minister continued: "Winnie Ewing's support for Scotland's place in Europe was unwavering.

"It is only fitting that as I travel to Brussels, we continue to demonstrate the value we place on our European partnerships and Scotland's interests within the EU, especially in the aftermath of Brexit.

"Scotland has an important contribution to make to the EU in the years ahead. However, it's abundantly clear that we can only realise our enormous potential as a nation free from Westminster control, where we can decide for ourselves what kind of country we want to be."

Mr Yousaf told the SNP convention in Dundee on Saturday that if his party won the general election in Scotland, his government would "take that mandate from the people and ensure we as a government are ready to negotiate our independence".

The First Minister later clarified the position to mean that the Scottish Government would in the first instance seek to negotiate a new independence referendum.

He added that following an election victory ministers would take a number of actions including appointing an envoy to Brussels "to prepare the ground for independence" and EU membership.

"Firstly, we will set out in a detailed document the terms we would seek in discussions with the UK Government for Scotland becoming an independent country. It would be called “Withdrawal from Westminster – a New Partnership Agreement”", Mr Yousaf said.

"This new partnership agreement between Scotland and our friends in the rest of the UK would include draft legal text on the transfer of powers from Westminster to the Scottish Parliament necessary to prepare for independence. It would set out the Scottish Government position on issues such as the division of assets.

"And it would detail future arrangements for continuing, indeed better, co-operation with the rest of the UK."

He added: "Secondly, we will conduct a nationwide, open, and inclusive consultation on a draft interim constitution, the founding document of our newly-independent state. The process will include some fundamental principles and aims:

"To protect citizens’ rights that are being eroded by Westminster, like the right for workers to strike. To give constitutional protection for our NHS, free at the point of use. To confer a duty on the Government of an independent Scotland to pursue nuclear disarmament. And, friends, the first line of the interim constitution will say the following: Scotland is an independent country in which the people are sovereign.”"

He continued: "And thirdly, if we win the General Election, we will prepare the ground for Scotland to become an independent member state of the EU, by establishing an envoy position, a representative of the Scottish Government in Brussels.

"This position will be focussed on explaining the Scottish Government policy on independence to our fellow Europeans.

"We will reinforce to our European partners our commitment to a legal, constitutional democratic process. But we will also seek to enhance understanding that Scotland is an ancient nation, committed to the founding values of the EU; a country with much to gain from EU membership but also much to offer as we navigate the challenges of the 21st century."