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15 March 2017, 13:23
The head of one of Scotland's top universities has said the Scottish Government's current inability to guarantee membership of the European Union (EU) in an independent Scotland is ''not a concern''.
Glasgow University principal Anton Muscatelli and other leading education figures met with Deputy First Minster John Swinney, Scotland's Brexit minister Mike Russell and further education, higher education and science minister Shirley-Anne Somerville for a discussion on the impact of Brexit on higher education.
Following the meeting at St Andrew's House in Edinburgh, Mr Russell warned without freedom of movement there are ''huge dangers ahead for Scottish higher education''.
He said that ''information'' on Scotland's membership of the EU would ''come along as the UK's position becomes clear in the negotiation and that's set against the independence offering''.
''As that is done, there has to be clarity on both sides and there will be,'' Mr Russell said.
''I'm a lifelong enthusiast for Europe, I believe in membership of the EU and the First Minister has pointed out that membership of the EU has been SNP policy for a long time.''
Asked if he was concerned about the Scottish Government being currently unable to guarantee EU membership for an independent Scotland, Prof Muscatelli replied: ''Speaking personally, that is not a concern''.
He added: ''Most of our discussion really focused on the potential damage that a hard Brexit could do to Scotland and Scotland's universities.
''We are determined to ensure that we will maintain that wonderful human capital that we have here in Scotland in terms of EU citizens who add so much and EU students who add so much.
''From our point of view, defending that is the key principal going forward.
''Obviously, the issue of freedom of movement is not under the control of the Scottish Government at the moment but we really do appreciate the support that we have received and the fact that as far as the Scottish Government is concerned, freedom of movement is one of the key principals that they wish to maintain in the future.''
He praised the Scottish Government's compromise document Scotland's Place in Europe, which set out alternative plans to retain Scottish access to the single market.
He said: ''A lot of the issues are actually set out very well in terms of the relationship that the Scottish Government would like to maintain within Europe, the principles are set out very well in Scotland's Place in Europe.
''As a sector, we are really very grateful that actually higher education and research is being seen as central to that discussion around Scotland's place in Europe.
''We have some of the very best universities in the world here, five in the top 200, that's what we have to defend whatever the constitutional debate over the next two years.''