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25 August 2016, 15:10
SNP veteran Michael Russell will lead the Scottish Government's engagement with the UK Government on Scotland's place in Europe, Nicola Sturgeon has announced.
As Minister for UK Negotiations on Scotland's Place in Europe, Mr Russell will focus on ensuring the best interests of Scotland are represented and protected in Westminster EU negotiations.
He will report to the First Minister and attend the Scottish Cabinet.
Ms Sturgeon said: ``This appointment - which is subject to the approval of Parliament when it returns after recess - is an indication of the importance I am placing on these negotiations, and our part in them.
"By putting a dedicated and experienced minister at their centre, it will ensure that Scotland's voice is heard loudly and clearly.
"I am confident that Michael Russell will make strong and constructive representation to the UK Government throughout this process.
"In the period ahead of Article 50 being triggered, influencing the UK position will be crucial to our efforts to protect Scotland's interests and our relationship with Europe, especially the single market.
"However, it is also vital that we continue to engage with the EU institutions and member states - this work will continue to be led by Cabinet Secretary for External Affairs Fiona Hyslop and Minister for Europe Alasdair Allan.
"Derek Mackay (Constitution Secretary) will continue to have overall responsibility for the constitution, including overseeing preparations for a new independence referendum Bill should that prove to be the best or only way to protect Scotland's interests.''
Mr Russell said: "While the UK Government is obviously still very unclear about what kind of relationship it wants with the European Union, the Scottish Government is absolutely focused on the importance of the EU to Scotland's economy and our people. Those priorities will be at the heart of our approach to the negotiations.
"Following the overwhelming vote in Scotland to remain in the EU, it is essential that Scotland comes together to defend our national interest.
"Accordingly in these discussions, it is important that the nation speaks, as much as possible, with one voice.
"I will therefore want to listen and learn from the widest range of individuals, communities, organisations and companies about their hopes and fears for the future.''