A LEADING Belgian politician has told ports in his region to "prepare for" the possibility of Scotland becoming an independent country.

Jan Jambon has been on a trip to the UK with the mission of bolstering trade from the UK entering Belgian ports and made his statement on the possibility of increased trade with an independent Scotland following a meeting with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

Jambon (below) is the minister-president of Flanders, a dutch-speaking region of Belgium in the north of the country that includes the port city of Antwerp.

Citing the increased trade that an independent Scotland rejoining the European Union would bring, Jambon said that Scottish exports that would no longer pass via England "could come directly to Europe by boat".

The Flemish politician highlighted that this would bypass complicated customs checks brought about by Brexit.

The National:

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Jambon said that this direct trading relationship with an independent Scotland would be an “enormous opportunity" that ports in his region "should start preparing for".

"If Scotland becomes independent in a few years, it will want to join the European Union as soon as possible," Jambon said. "From then on, she will no longer want to have her exports go through England but to ship them by sea directly to the continent.

"This is a huge opportunity that Antwerp and Zeebrugge must already anticipate now.

"Our ports must be ready to become at that time the main partner of the Scots".

Last month, details published by HM Revenue & Customs showed that from the period ending June 2021, Scottish exports had decreased by 14% compared to the previous year - the highest decline in the UK.

Over the past three years, Scottish exports have also fallen from a high of around £4.8 billion to £3.2bn in the second quarter of this year.

The SNP's shadow international trade secretary Drew Hendry said that the "devastating figures" showed the "catastrophic economic vandalism" that Brexit had caused to Scotland by making it more difficult for businesses to trade with the EU.

READ MORE: Boris Johnson's 'shameful' Brexit blamed as exports fall by more than £1bn

However, Brexit has brought some economic advantages to Belgium with some companies moving their operations from the UK to the European nation to facilitate easier trade on the continent.

The Flanders region reportedly saw a 183% jump in UK investment projects in the first half of 2021 compared to the year before with an estimated value of two billion euros (£1.68bn).

Jambon met Scottish FM Nicola Sturgeon on Monday, November 22 where the pair discussed the trade links between Scotland and Flanders as well as "future opportunities to co-operate across a range of shared interests".

In a separate tweet from his own account, Jambon also stated that they discussed plans for a second Scottish independence referendum, with plans for it to possibly be held in 2023.