The Scottish leader will travel to Brussels to strengthen ties with the EU

Humza Yousaf, the Scottish First Minister, will travel to Brussels on Monday to strengthen connections with the EU, his first foreign trip since succeeding Nicola Sturgeon in March.

Yousaf, who took over as leader of Scotland’s devolved government after Sturgeon abruptly resigned, promised to lay out his “vision for a meaningful and mutually beneficial relationship with the European Union” during the three-day tour.

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The Scottish National Party (SNP) leader will attend “a series of trade, diplomatic, and policy engagements” while in Brussels, according to his office, just days after promising to send a permanent envoy to help the independence cause.

“Scotland has been taken out of the EU despite voting to remain, and the UK government’s Brexit deal is making it harder for Scots to travel, work, trade and do business in EU countries,” Yousaf said in a statement.

Scotland remains “steadfastly European and committed to strong, fruitful relations with our neighbours and partners” in the EU.

“During this visit, I will set out Scotland’s vision for a meaningful and mutually beneficial relationship with the European Union, highlighting what Scotland can contribute to support the ambitions of the EU,” Yousaf said.

His SNP-led government has policymaking authority over domestic matters, but international affairs are nominally handled by the UK government in London.

Yousaf, like his high-profile predecessor Sturgeon, is urging London to have another referendum on independence, over a decade after Scottish voters decisively rejected leaving the UK.

He indicated at an SNP conference on Saturday that the issue would be “front and center” of the party’s campaign in the next general election, which is expected next year, despite the UK government’s continued opposition to the proposal.

Yousaf also stated that he intended to appoint an envoy to represent the Scottish government in Brussels and convey the Scottish government’s independence agenda to the EU.

Public support for the SNP has fallen for the first time in two decades, owing to an ongoing scandal involving the party’s finances.

This month, Sturgeon, the former first minister and a key member in the independence campaign, was arrested and questioned by police.

Her husband, the party’s former top executive, was also imprisoned in April.

Both have denied any wrongdoing and have been freed without being charged.

Sturgeon, who took control following the failed 2014 independence vote, abruptly announced her resignation in February, citing a lack of “energy” to continue.

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