TWO former Members of the European Parliament are backing Humza Yousaf for the position of leader of the SNP and first minister of Scotland.

Dr Aileen McLeod, former minister for the environment who subsequently served as SNP member of the European Parliament, said: “With his former role as minister for external affairs and international development in 2012 and his subsequent service as minister for Europe and international development in 2014, Humza has a wealth of experience in representing Scotland on the European and international stage.

“He knows that our rightful place is back in the European Union, but this time as an independent nation, and he is committed to pursuing EU membership from day one of independence.”

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Heather Anderson, who joined the European Parliament in the last month of membership in January 2020 added: “Maintaining our links with our European partners is critical to ensuring Scotland’s future recognition as a sovereign state. Humza has already demonstrated his strong commitment to re-joining the European Union.

“He knows that is where our future lies and he’s stated his intention to strengthen our political presence in Brussels.”

In a letter last week to David Clarke, chair of the European Movement in Scotland, Yousaf said: “If elected as first minister I would seek to rebuild closer relationships with the EU as a matter of priority, bringing Scotland back to Europe, where we belong.

“I would envision having someone in place to lead this strategy.”

McLeod welcomed the intention to start rebuilding a relationship and infrastructure that will prepare the ground for Scotland’s EU membership. She said she was “delighted” to hear that, if elected SNP leader and Scotland’s first minister, Yousaf will “host a European summit in Scotland involving a range of European representatives who share our commitment to open democracy and social justice”.

McLeod added: “As SNP MEPs we were leading across a range of issues, including climate change, the wellbeing economy, research and innovation, and the circular economy.

“Re-igniting those discussions at a political level is exactly what we should be doing.

“While there is still a lot of goodwill in Brussels and across Europe towards Scotland and our EU membership, we need to bolster Scotland’s profile and visibility within the EU, its member states and the wider Europe, taking this to the next level.

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“We need a political and proactive dialogue and engagement strategy with our European friends and partners to build and reinforce those crucial relationships – making the case for independence, showing what an independent Scotland can contribute as an EU member state, and demonstrating our commitment to engaging positively within the wider international community.”

Anderson, who now has the remit for biodiversity within her council responsibilities in Dundee, believes it’s vital that Scotland maintains alignment with Europe.

“It’s not just about trade, it’s about scientific research, human rights, standards and regulations, particularly when we are working to mitigate climate change and protect and enhance biodiversity,” Anderson said.

“With Brexit continuing to cause severe damage and undermine our economic and social ambitions and opportunities we must be relentless in making the positive case for Scotland’s independence in Europe at home, and to demonstrate to the people of Scotland what they will gain from EU membership.”