Humza Yousaf has been rebuffed by the EU over a key part of his independence strategy.
The Scottish First Minister outlined plans to send an envoy to the bloc to “prepare the ground for Scotland to become an independent member state of the EU” during his speech to SNP members at an event in Dundee last Saturday.
But EU sources rejected the prospect of the European Commission taking part in separation talks when asked about the SNP leader’s proposal for an envoy.
A source told The Times: “The EU as such deals only with the official governments of third countries.
“Of course we welcome the friendship of our Scottish friends and stand ready to engage with all parts of the UK within this new cycle of our relationship.”
The EU regards “third countries” as non-members of the Brussels club, but Scotland would be deemed a “region” of the UK.
In his first overseas trip since taking over from Nicola Sturgeon, Mr Yousaf has travelled to Brussels to attend an inward investment dinner with members of the British Chamber of Commerce.
He is due to meet the European Commission’s vice president Maros Sefcovic but will be “babysat” by the UK’s most senior diplomat in Brussels.
The UK ambassador to the EU, Lindsay Croisdale-Appleby, will sit in on the meeting after an order by Foreign Secretary James Cleverly.
The move is intended to block Scottish ministers from discussing the constitution.
A spokesman for Yousaf said: “At the weekend, the first minister set out a proposal to have a Scottish government representative in Brussels.
“The people of Scotland have made clear that they wish to have a close relationship with the EU — and we warmly welcome that this feeling is reciprocated.”
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