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Scotland's Sturgeon says would not rule out staying in EU and UK

LONDON (Reuters) - Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she would not rule out the possibility of Scotland remaining in the European Union as well as part of Britain, which backed Brexit in a referendum mainly due to voters in England and Wales.

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon addresses a news conference in Brussels, Belgium, June 29, 2016. REUTERS/Geoffroy Van Der Hasselt

“When you are in unchartered territory you have effectively a blank sheet of paper in front of you then you have an opportunity to think things that may have been previously unthinkable,” Sturgeon told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.

Asked if Scotland could stay in the EU while England and Wales exited the bloc, Sturgeon said: “I don’t think that should be ruled out at this stage.”

Voters in Scotland rejected independence in 2014 but 62 percent backed remaining part of the EU in a referendum on June 23 in which the majority of voters across the four countries which make up the United Kingdom backed Brexit.

Sturgeon said after the Brexit result that a second independence referendum was now a possibility, though she has also stressed that would not happen until it was clear most Scots were in favor of breaking from the United Kingdom.

In the wake of the shock vote, Sturgeon went on a flying visit to Brussels to meet EU executives and lawmakers.

According to sources, she discussed possible models for Scotland’s future in the bloc, based on the fact that several states have some parts in the EU and some outside - as in the case of EU member Denmark and its non-EU territory Greenland.

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Speaking about her visit to Brussels, Sturgeon said her welcome had been much warmer than during her visits in the run-up to the independence referendum.

“What I encountered in Brussels was a warmth, an openness a great sympathy to the position that Scotland find itself in,” she said on Sunday.

Sturgeon also said Prime Minister Theresa May’s comments on Friday, saying Britain would not trigger formal divorce talks with the EU until a “UK approach” had been agreed, gives her a strong bargaining position.

“That put Scotland in a very, very strong position, that puts me in a strong position.”

Reporting by Karin Strohecker and Costas Pitas; Editing by Angus MacSwan