EU vote 'risks Irish relations'
The in/out referendum on Europe puts Scotland's relations with Ireland at risk, the Scottish Government has warned.
Ireland is Europe's fastest growing economy and the UK's membership of the EU allows Scotland to benefit from this growth through increased trade, External Affairs Secretary Fiona Hyslop said.
This would be put at risk if the UK votes to leave the EU and takes Scotland with it, she said.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon today repeated her call for a "double majority" in the proposed in/out referendum, where each constituent part of the UK must vote Yes for withdrawal to begin.
Ms Hyslop will visit Dublin tomorrow and Ireland's Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Charlie Flanagan will visit Scotland on February 5.
Ms Hyslop said: "Scotland and Ireland have a strong and long-standing relationship. Our trade links and our work together in the European Union show how much we have to gain from working together.
"Ireland is Europe's fastest growing economy, worth £815 million a year to Scotland as an export market. Our common membership of the EU means there is every opportunity for our trade with Ireland to grow further, with clear benefits for Scottish businesses. But our vital relationship is being put at risk by a potential in-out referendum on EU membership.
"Our two countries have distinctive identities and experiences but elements of shared history, culture and language. Ireland is not just one of Scotland's next door neighbours and one most important trading partners, but also one of our closest friends.
"I look forward to continuing to have discussions on fostering further links between Scotland and Ireland, which will allow our relations to continue to flourish.
"This exchange of Ministerial visits, and Ireland's decision to expand its Consular presence in Scotland, demonstrates our commitment to improving the links between Ireland and Scotland."
While in Dublin, Ms Hyslop will attend a Burns Supper with Scottish and Irish business leaders and politicians, showcasing Scottish produce and encouraging trade during Scotland's "Year of Food and Drink".