KAUKAB Stewart has said that she hopes and believes Scotland will “take our place within the European family” as soon as possible.

The former Minister for Europe, Culture and International Development, and current Equalities Minister, was speaking at the Our European Future conference organised by Young Scots for Independence (YSI).

Held in Stirling, the conference looks to discuss Scotland’s path back to independence and a way back to EU membership and gathers a delegation of 25 youth leaders across eight political parties from Germany, Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands, Poland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the European Free Alliance.

“I need not remind you that in 2016, the Brexit referendum, Scotland voted overwhelmingly to remain,” she told the crowd of delegates.

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“We voted to keep all the freedoms and benefits of EU membership and all it brings. And my personal opinion is that we have been dragged out of Europe against our will.

“I'd like to take this opportunity to highlight our steadfast belief in the European project and in internationalism.”

Stewart added that this belief is something that has been “painfully lacking from both Labour and the Conservatives”.

“Keir Starmer has previously stated that Labour would not seek to rejoin the single market or customs union or restore the freedom of movement,” she said.

“So I'm not surprised that silence on this subject has been absolutely deafening.”

The SNP minister went on to say that like independence, “Brexit is something they will try to ignore”.

Stewart said: “But like independence, it's not something that can simply be cast aside.

“In the Scottish Government series of independence papers, we set out our vision for an independent Scotland back in the European Union.

“It recognizes that Scotland's laws are already highly aligned with EU laws.”

She added: “The experience of myself and my colleagues as we visit our European partners is that we have always been made to feel welcome and supported in our cause.

“The networks that we have are strong and they are growing.

“I also believe that the future of our relationship with the EU will be strengthened by our young people.”