There’s been further confirmation from the Spanish Government that they “will not interfere” in Scotland’s EU membership if we achieve independence legally. Of course, the Spanish Foreign Minister said as much a few weeks back, when as reported in the Spanish press and on this blog.
Strangely this news wasn’t prominent in the Scottish media, who were probably on holiday or something at the time. It’s not like they’d deliberately not report positive stories about independence, the very thought. So presumably the Terrible Alistair Twins, Alistair Tweedletoodumb and Alistair Tweedletoowee, just hadn’t heard that Spain has ruled out vetoing an indy Scotland, which is why Better Together keeps claiming that Spain is going to do just that. Aye, that must be it.
In an interview with the Financial Times over the weekend, Spain’s Foreign Minister José Manuel García Margallo repeated pretty much what the Spanish Government has been saying for ages now – Spain’s objection to Catalan independence rests upon the legal argument that the Spanish Constitution forbids an independence referendum in Catalonia, an argument which does not apply to Scotland. Scotland is not subject to the Spanish Constitution, another fact which Better Together seems oddly unaware of. Possibly they love being Better Together so much they think we’re better together with the Spanish Constitution too.
Because of the paywall used by the Murdoch press, I’ve taken Margallo’s comments from reports in the Spanish language media which has given extensive coverage to the interview. The Spanish press is saying that Margallo has scored a massive own goal by admitting that Scotland can after all join the EU.
I have translated Margallo’s comments into English, so the wording may differ slightly from the original FT report. The meaning however remains the same.
“Si Escocia se vuelve independiente de acuerdo con los procedimientos legales e institucionales, pedirá la admisión. Si este proceso se ha hecho legalmente, la petición se puede considerar. Si no, no…
“No interferimos en los asuntos internos de otros países. Si el ordenamiento constitucional británico permite, y parece que lo permite, que Escocia escoja la independencia, no tenemos nada que decir.”
“If Scotland becomes independent again in accordance with legal and institutional procedures, it will apply for admission [to the EU]. If not, no…
“We will not interfere in the internal matters of other countries. If the British constitutional order permits it, and it appears it does, that Scotland may choose independence, we have nothing to say.”
A full account (in Spanish) of Margallo’s interview is given in Periodista Digital.
Margallo spent the bulk of the interview detailing the many differences between Scotland and Catalonia, and pointed out that the United Kingdom was created by the free decisions of sovereign parliaments in Edinburgh and London. Spain therefore recognises the sovereignty of the Scottish people, whereas in the opinion of the Spanish Government the Catalans do not have such sovereign rights. This is the fundamental and basic distinction upon which Spain bases its objections to Catalan independence. These objections have no parallel in the Scottish case.
As I have previously pointed out, if Scotland obtains her independence following a yes vote in September, Spain cannot object. If Spain was foolish enough to raise objections, the Catalans would immediately cite this as evidence that the Spanish refusal to allow an independence referendum in Catalonia is not based in any legal argument at all, but rather Spain simply does not recognise the democratic rights to self-determination enshrined in the UN Charter.
The Scottish independence process has been a model of legality and constitutional validity. If Spain refuses to recognise an independent Scotland and blocks our membership of the EU, they destroy their own case against Catalonia because it would mean that there are no circumstances under which Spain accepts the legality of independence.
At the very end of the interview Margallo was asked directly what the response of the Spanish Government would be if Scotland votes yes in September. The interviewer asked:
“Si Escocia dice si a la independencia en septiembre, ¿cuál será la reacción del Gobierno aquí?”
“If Scotland says yes to independence in September, what would be the reaction of the Government here [in Spain].”
Making a contrast between Scotland and Catalonia, Margallo replied:
“La reacción es la misma, es que eso no tiene nada que ver. Si tú decides divorciarte, tu derecho no me va a obligar a mí ni me va a aconsejar divorciarme, probablemente cuando vea lo caro que te resulta me lo piense mejor antes de tomar semejante decisión. Si los supuestos jurídicos son distintos, las consecuencias y análisis son diferentes.”
“The reaction is the same, it is that this has nothing to do with us. If you decide to divorce, your right is not going to oblige me nor advise me to divorce, probably when it’s seen how expensive it will be for you, it’s better to think before taking a similar decision. If the legal grounds are different, the consequences and analysis are different.”
Of course Margallo still insisted that Scotland would be out of the EU and would have to reapply as an external candidate – the line that the Spanish Partido Popular has agreed in its secret meetings with the UK Tories. The Partido Popular and the Tories wouldn’t dream of interfering in the internal matters of another country, at least not in public.
This line is little more than a flat out lie, which the PP and the Tories hope will become the truth by the sheer force of constant assertion. That’s not going to happen however, as legal experts in EU expansion such as Prof Graham Avery have pointed out.
The Spanish veto story has now been killed, cremated, and the ashes scattered all over the carpet of Better Together’s offices. It would be nice to think that this is the last we’re going to hear about this particular scare story, but I wouldn’t bet on it.