Nicola Sturgeon sent 31 Christmas cards to EU chiefs in bid to ‘woo her pals in Brussels’

Nicola Sturgeon provides update on new restrictions

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First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s hopes of strengthening the relationship between Scotland and the EU were dealt a blow this week.. During a private meeting with MEPs, European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic said the bloc would never allow Scotland to participate in Erasmus – the overseas study scheme. A leaked transcript quoted Mr Sefcovic as saying: “There is no special treatment for Scotland in sight. “The United Kingdom is now a non-EU country.”

He added there are no plans for “any new tools for the inter-mobility of students between the EU and the UK”.

A key part of Ms Sturgeon’s independence dream is for Scotland to rejoin the EU.

The First Minister has tried to woo senior figures in Brussels, as seen last Christmas.

A Freedom of Information request from Express.co.uk in March showed Ms Sturgeon sent 29 cards to European Commission diplomats and politicians compared to just two cards to UK Government colleagues.

Among the recipients in Brussels were Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and the Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier.

The Scottish First Minister also sent cards to the Prime Minister of Belgium and Iceland along with 58 members of the United States Congress.

In 2019, a similar request revealed that Ms Sturgeon sent 31 EU politicians and diplomats a Christmas card, while only Prime Minister Boris Johnson received one in the UK Government.

Dean Lockhart, Scottish Conservative MSP, said at the time: “In what’s meant to be the season of goodwill, it seems Nicola Sturgeon was unable to muster any to send to members of the UK Government.

“However, it seems she had no hesitation racking up the airmail costs in sending cards in a bid woo her pals in Europe.

“It appears even when signing her Christmas cards, the First Minister couldn’t resist engaging in a petty bit of constitutional politics.”

Ms Sturgeon was boosted earlier this month when a poll showed 55 percent of Scots would back ‘Yes’ in a referendum if undecided votes are discounted.

The survey by Ipsos Mori will leave many in the SNP optimistic that they can win the right to hold a referendum.

In November, Ms Sturgeon pledged to start the process to enable a Scottish independence referendum to be held before the end of 2023.

Under current arrangements, a request for a section 30 order – a mechanism in the Scotland Act 1998 – would need to be made and granted to enable a referendum to be held.

The mechanism allows for legislative authority to be granted to the Scottish Parliament in certain areas either temporarily or permanently.

Delivering her speech to conference, Ms Sturgeon said that the SNP will “set out afresh the positive case for independence”.

She added: “Next year, Covid permitting, as we emerge from winter into spring, the campaign to persuade a majority of people in Scotland that our future will be more secure as an independent nation will resume in earnest.

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“In the course of next year, I will initiate the process necessary to enable a referendum before the end of 2023.

“And just as importantly, our party will set out afresh the positive case for independence.

“We will outline the opportunities and advantages that independence will open up.

“The opportunity to repair the damage of Covid – including the fiscal challenges it has created for all countries – in a way that aligns with our values and priorities as a nation.

“To use our financial and human resources to tackle poverty and give young people a better life.

“To use our vast natural resources to help safeguard our planet and secure green jobs for the future.

“And to re-join the European family of nations, so that we can expand not narrow our horizons, and grow our trade across the whole of the continent.”

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