Nicola Sturgeon seeking support for Scottish EU talks
Nicola Sturgeon will today seek backing from the Scottish Parliament to pursue talks aimed at protecting Scotland's place in the European Union.
The First Minister will call for cross-party support for discussions with EU institutions and member states i n an emergency debate at Holyrood.
MSPs are gathering for the first time since Thursday's referendum which saw the UK vote to leave the EU by a margin of 52% to 48%.
In Scotland, voters opted to retain membership by 62% to 38%.
Speaking ahead of the debate, Ms Sturgeon said: ''I am determined to explore every avenue to retain Scotland's EU status and today's parliamentary debate is a vital part of that process.
''I am specifically asking Parliament to strengthen my hand by giving me a mandate to pursue discussions about protecting Scotland's place in the EU with the UK Government, other devolved administrations, EU institutions and member states.
''It is now crucial that our national Parliament speaks with as strong and united a voice as possible on this issue.
''Today's debate is among the most important in Holyrood's history - and I want to see it result in broad cross-party support for our efforts.''
The SNP leader said she is not asking Parliament for the green light for an independence referendum but for a mandate "to explore the options that exist'' for maintaining Scotland's relationship with the EU.
Labour, the Liberal Democrats and Greens have all signalled their support for the motion.
Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said: ''Every possible avenue must be explored to not just mitigate the impact of Brexit, but to strengthen our ties with our European neighbours. The protection of jobs and workers' rights must be the priority.
''The majority of Scotland's voters backed remaining in the EU and it's vital that our Parliament gives voice to that position.''
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: ''On Friday I committed my party to supporting Nicola Sturgeon's special EU negotiation process as there is a strong need for cross-party support, therefore we will support the motion. ''
It is understood the Scottish Conservatives will seek to amend the motion.
Leader Ruth Davidson said: ''The aim must be to protect and maximise our trade within the European Union area and ensure continued access to the single market.
''That means the UK Government and all the devolved administrations working closely together - along with regional centres of power - to get the best settlement going forward.
''It is encouraging that the First Minister has already held discussions with the UK Government and London mayor to further this approach.
''However, we would caution the SNP against using these negotiations to further their aim of independence."