Scotland’s long game

EDINBURGH — Subtle it wasn’t. At the Scottish National Party’s conference in Aberdeen in October, the yellow stars of the European Union were projected onto a giant backdrop of the party’s initials, flanked by two Scottish flags.

The party’s in-your-face Europhilia is not just a signal to Scottish voters — who voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU — that membership of the bloc is part of its vision of an independent Scotland. SNP leaders have been aggressively courting their counterparts across Europe, laying the groundwork for the next time the nation holds an independence referendum.

Their goal: to convince EU leaders to lend their support, or at least withhold opposition, to such a referendum — and to smooth the way for Scotland to quickly become an EU member should voters decide to break with the U.K.

“What we’ve seen since the referendum on leaving the EU is an intensification of a particular type of ‘para-diplomatic’ effort,” said Emily St. Denny, a politics lecturer at Scotland’s Stirling University. The Scottish effort is “specifically designed to bolster sympathy for and recognition of Scotland as a natural member of the European community.”

In September, Scottish First Minister and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon traveled to Potsdam to collect an award for her “passionate” advocacy for Europe and an “ethical stance against Brexit.”

“From an EU perspective, a number of people who didn’t quite get the need for independence in 2014 get it now” — MEP Alyn Smith, an SNP member

At the gala, organized by leading figures in German media and politics, the SNP leader met with Germany’s Minister of State for Europe Michael Roth,

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