The Sunday Herald has picked up on the story of collaboration between the UK Government and the Spanish Government to gang up better together against those pesky separatists. According to the Herald, Downing Street’s Scottish adviser (They have a Scottish adviser? Who knew?) flew out to Madrid last week to meet with Partido Popular representatives to discuss the Scottish independence referendum.
This has led Alex Salmond to accuse the two right wing unionist parties of “plotting hand in glove” and attempting a “stitch up”, because it’s highly unlikely that the Tories and the PP were meeting in order to have a relaxing wee social chat with wine and nibbles. It’s not difficult to imagine what the UK Government might have to discuss with the Spanish Government about the Scottish referendum, and none of it is good for Scottish democracy.
The Tories and Better Together have dismissed Eck’s claims as paranoia. Really, accusing them of plotting with a foreign power to undermine the democratic will if a legal vote doesn’t go according to their liking … isn’t that the definition of a crime that people used to be hung drawn and quartered for? How could anyone even think they’d stoop so low.
But the Tories have previous for this. Newsnet Scotland covered a very similar story over a year ago, when it reported that Ruth Davidson and other senior Conservatives had met with Esteban González Pons of the Partido Popular to discuss the creation of a European alliance of right wing unionists.
In November 2012, the Spanish newspaper el Periódico reported the following:
El vicesecretario de Estudios y Programas del PP, Esteban González Pons, ha negociado la firma de un acuerdo de colaboración política con los conservadores británicos, que se pondrá negro sobre blanco en diciembre en Madrid. “Catalunya y Escocia son regiones distintas y tienen problemas distintos, pero la respuesta tiene que ser conjunta”, asegura González Pons.
The Partido Popular’s vice-secretary of Studies and Programmes, Estebán González Pons, has negotiated the signing of an agreement of political collaboration with the British Conservatives, which will be put in black and white in December  in Madrid. “Catalonia and Scotland are distinct regions and have distinct problems, but the response has to be a joint one,” stated González Pons.
The paper also reported that González Pons was due to meet with Conservatives and Labour in Edinburgh that December. The original Catalan language article has now gone behind a paywall and is only available to subscribers, but the relevant passages are translated in the Newsnet article. It’s not a bad translation, because it was me who translated them.
The Partido Popular guy was pretty definite, he had met with the Tories, including Ruth Davidson, at the previous Tory party conference. There wasn’t just an agreement, it was going to be signed and sealed the following month, quite possibly over wine, cheese, and nibbles. González Pons also had meetings with right wing parties in Romania, who want to discourage Romania’s large Hungarian minority from seeking greater autonomy. His wee master plan for a European wide alliance to quash local democracy was proceeding apace.
The Scottish Tories responded instantly to the Newsnet article. They vehemently denied there had been any agreement between themselves and the PP, because conspiring with a foreign government to screw your own country if a democratic vote doesn’t go the way you want isn’t a vote winner if the news gets out.
Despite the denial, the Tories refused to answer any questions about meetings with the Partido Popular. Labour also refused to answer any enquiries about the meeting González Pons said he’d be having in Edinburgh in December last year.
It’s a safe bet there is no formal agreement written down on paper. What there most certainly is however is a series of winks and nods which allows “plausible deniability”. The UK and the Spanish governments have quite coincidentally and entirely independently arrived at the opinion that that “new states” will be expelled from the EU simply by becoming independent. This not a legal opinion nor a fact, despite the claims of Mariano Rajoy. It is a political opinion.
Both London and Madrid refuse to acknowledge the reality that any part of any EU state which votes yes in an independence referendum will not become independent immediately, and therefore will still be a part of the EU. They don’t want to acknowledge the possibility that a country can negotiate EU membership from within the EU prior to its formal declaration of independence. London and Madrid are ensuring that they make a joint political response to independence demands, because then each can present the declarations of the other to its own electorate as “a blow to independence”.
Herman van Rompuy, the president of the EU council, is a member of the Belgian CDV, another right wing anti-independence party. He has also made similar statements to Cameron and Rajoy. Van Rompuy’s intervention was denounced by Flemish nationalists as nakedly political.
Flemish MEP Mark Demesmaeker said earlier this week that van Rompuy’s claim has “no legal basis” and is purely political. Demesmaeker states that EU lawyers, including a former judge in the European Court of Justice, had told his party that “such threats are baseless”. Demesmaeker accused van Rompuy of following a “political-oriented agenda” that makes him tell “lies” that seem “truths”.
Only wait, aren’t Scotland, Flanders, and Catalonia totally and utterly different cases? How can the Spanish and UK governments have lots of friendly chats about situations that they keep telling us have nothing to do with one another. Unless we’re not so totally and utterly different after all, I’m sure that the Catalans and Flemings will have taken note.
And so should we. If the UK government is internationalising Scotland’s independence debate, then we must internationalise it too. Our struggle is not taking place in a vacuum. All across Europe there are growing movements seeking to restore national or regional autonomy or demanding independence. It’s not just in Scotland that people feel the existing political systems do not listen to their demands or respond to their needs. Change is in the air.
Pro-sovereignty movements in different parts of Spain have recently started to recognise the need for co-ordinated action in order to achieve their goals of national sovereignty. The Galician newspaper Sermos Galiza reported that representatives of the ERC of Catalonia, EH Bildu from the Basque Country, and the BNG of Galicia met in Bilbao last week and agreed to work together to find effective means of collaboration between their three nations in order to achieve the right to independence referendums and to argue for a new social model within the heart of the European debate.
The debate in Scotland has centred on whether or not the European Union will allow us membership, and if so how long with the application take and under what conditions. But there is a wider argument, what sort of European Union do we want to achieve. That’s the debate that the Catalans, Basques and Galicians are beginning to have.
It’s certainly not the same Europe that Cameron and Rajoy want. Cameron may very well end up taking the UK out of the EU entirely, in order to better chase the Conservative wet dream of abolishing the benefits safety net, and putting what remains of public services into the hands of ATOS and Serco. Rajoy wants an EU that speaks for the ruling elites, and which defends the status quo.
Neither of them want an EU that is more accountable. Cameron and Rajoy see the EU as a means of freezing Europe’s current geopolitical landscape, not as a framework within which issues of independence or national minorities can be settled peacefully and democratically.
The only way we can change this is by voting yes in September next year and ensuring that Scotland has its own voice at EU level. In the meantime Scottish organisations and political parties should strengthen their ties to other movements within the EU seeking self-determination for their own unrecognised nations. Europe belongs to us too, it’s not the property of Cameron, Rajoy and van Rompuy, let’s take it back from them.