How Catalonia is reported in Scotland tells us far more about the Scottish media than it does about what’s going on in Catalonia. At least Catalonia rates the occasional mention in the Scottish media, if only because it’s produced some new blow or other to Scottish independence. Judging by the Scottish media, Catalonia’s main export is reasons against Scottish independence. It’s just produced another one, in the form of the risible notion that the leader of the Catalan Government Artur Mas has miraculously agreed to the Spanish Government’s view on Catalan independence and EU membership.
I covered Artur Mas’s interview with La Reppublica in the previous post, but naturally the usual suspects have leapt all over Mas’s comments as misrepresented in the UK media and misrepresented them a bit more for good measure.
The musings of the Catalan president on strategies to achieve a Catalan state that’s an independent member of the EU, in the teeth of opposition from a Spanish government which refuses to recognise Catalonia’s right to self-determination, have magically transformed themselves into Artur Mas and Mariano Rajoy singing in EU harmony like carol singers. That’s the wonder of Better Together fairy dust, children. It’s a Christmas miracle and we do believe in Santa. Or at least a privatised UK Santa, who’ll give you a zero hours contract with a call centre and a voucher for a food bank.
Fresh from her panto performance at Kelvinside abseiling club, Action Krankie Ruth Davidson said: “Alex Salmond has found himself completely isolated on Europe. Now even the nationalist president of Catalonia, who is leading his own drive for independence, says that leaving Spain means leaving the EU.
“Alex Salmond cannot keep saying everyone else is wrong and he is right. These realistic assessments are in stark contrast to Alex Salmond’s record of misleading Scots voters on the EU issue. If only Alex Salmond was as honest as his Catalan counterpart.”
Ruth obviously wasn’t paying much attention when she had those meetings with Esteban Gonzalez Pons of the Partido Popular to discuss, but not agree on because that would be wrong, common strategies for putting spokes in the wheels of Scottish and Catalan independence. If she had been paying attention she’d have realised that Madrid refuses to allow Catalonia to hold an independence referendum and has repeatedly stated it won’t recognise or accept a yes vote if a ballot is held. She’d also have realised that describing Artur Mas as honest won’t go down well with the Partido Popular, who are basing their entire anti-independence strategy on persuading Catalans that Mas is a liar and a criminal. Although they’ve not had much success in that department recently.
Just like Alex Salmond, Artur Mas believes it is perfectly possible, indeed reasonable, for a country within an EU member state which votes for independence to negotiate its membership of the EU in the period between the yes vote and the formal declaration of independence. In fact that’s precisely the scenario Mas described in his interview with La Reppublica, when he spoke about Catalonia only making a formal declaration of independence once EU membership, and implicitly recognition by Madrid, have been achieved.
Mas was discussing ways in which Catalonia could remain within the EU while its formal accession is negotiated. Even in the absolute worst case scenario, Catalonia may be formally outwith the EU in the sense that it had no representation in the European Commission or in the European Parliament, but it would remain integrated within the EU while negotiations were held for it to rejoin – existing EU laws and regulations would remain in force, Catalonia would continue to use the euro, it would remain a part of the Schengen free travel area.
This is most certainly not a recognition from Mas that Rajoy has been right all along. Mas’s comments were about seeking ways for Catalonia to remain a part of the EU, which is very far indeed from agreeing with the Spanish Prime Minster that independence means automatic explusion.
As Mas stated, it may be necessary to find some sort of transitional regime between a yes vote and the formal declaration of independence in order to ensure that Catalonia can remain integrated within the EU after a yes vote. This transitional regime would be in place before Catalonia becomes independent. That’s the bit that the Scottish media gloss over and don’t want you to notice.
And of course as I pointed out in the previous post, all of this is only necessary because the Spanish Government has repeatedly said it will not recognise the result of any Catalan ballot on independence.
Scotland, as Ruth ought to know because her boss agreed to it, will be holding a legal referendum whose result Westminster has pledged to uphold.
However Alistair Carmichael’s comments take the proverbial carquinyoli. (A Catalan almond flavoured biscuit. It’s much tastier than Alistair Carmichael, but it still sticks in your teeth and can only be stomached in small doses.)
Carmichael said: “I welcome the thoughtful position of Catalan president Artur Mas that if Catalonia were to leave Spain it would be out of the EU and have to re-apply for membership. That reflects the EU position and it reflects our legal advice.
“Surely now is the time for the First Minister to take his fingers out of his ears and listen to what Mas is saying, what Rajoy is saying, what Van Rompuy is saying and what Barroso is saying.”
Alistair Carmichael’s comments are jaw dropping in their ignorance. Mas is most certainly not saying the same thing as Rajoy. And Rajoy is not saying the same thing as EU. Rajoy rarely shuts up on the subject. The EU is keeping diplomatically schtum despite the frantic Unionist spin placed on comments made by Barroso after Madrid leaned on him, and the politically motivated personal comments of Van Rompuy. Is Alistair Carmichael actually participating in the same independence debate as everyone else?
The only way that Koalamichael can welcome Mas’s position is if he doesn’t have the foggiest idea what Mas’s position actually is, because Mas’s position is not in fact any different from that of the Scottish Government. Mas believes that a country like Scotland or Catalonia can perfectly well negotiate its entry into the EU in the period between a yes vote in an independence referendum and the formal declaration of independence, and that the process need not be overly problematic when the EU state it is becoming independent from recognises the legitimacy of the vote.
Catalonia’s problem is that la Moncloa says it won’t recognise the vote. But Scotland doesn’t have that problem with Westminster, doesn’t it Alistair? And that is the crucial difference.
But if Alistair Carmichael agrees with Artur Mas, and Artur Mas agrees with Alex Salmond, does that mean that Carmichael agrees with Salmond now? It’s all very confusing, but it’s doubtless safe to assume that the confusion rests entirely with Alistair. Let’s be kind, because it’s Christmas, and assume that Alistair is just a bit of a thicko, because the alternative is that he knows he’s talking bollocks and is doing it deliberately to mislead us. And that would make him a very naughty little boy.
The presents still haven’t been delivered in Spain or Catalonia. Prezzie day is 6 January, when the Three Kings come. Los Reyes Magos – who have the official seasonal gift delivery contract in Iberia and Latin America, having put in a lower bid than Santa or ATOS because they don’t need to employ elfs or people in call centres in Mumbai – bring naughty children who don’t tell the truth a lump of coal instead of a present. Or at least they would bring Alistair Carmichael a lump of coal, only the Tories he’s in power with shut down all the mines.
Whatever the cause of Alistair Carmichael’s confusion, his job is to spread it to the Scottish public. We’ll be seeing a lot more confusion from him in the months ahead.