Brussels: First Minister Alex Salmond warned Monday Scotland could be "dragged out of the European Union" against its will unless it voted for independence from Britain.
Speaking in Belgium, Salmond said Scotland`s close ties with the EU could be severed by the "in-out" referendum on the UK`s membership of the EU which British Prime Minister David Cameron has promised for 2017.
"The real risk to Scotland`s place in the EU is not the independence referendum in September. It`s the in-out referendum of 2017," Salmond told an audience at the College of Europe in Bruges.
Salmond`s Scottish National Party (SNP), which leads the devolved government in Edinburgh, wants Scotland to break the 300-year-old political union with Britain so as to gain its own voice on the world stage.
Salmond also played down the likelihood of an independent Scotland being kicked out of the EU, saying that its ongoing membership in the bloc would offer a "no detriment" guarantee to EU commercial interests -- including fishing fleets operating in Scottish waters.
"We propose a practical, common sense approach to membership, which means that there is no detriment -- none whatsoever -- to any other member of the European Union as a result of Scotland`s continuing membership," he said.
The three main parties in the British parliament -- Prime Minister David Cameron`s Conservatives, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg`s Liberal Democrats and the opposition Labour party -- are all opposed to Scottish independence.