There’s one thing that this blog has been saying consistently ever since I started writing it in 2013, and that’s that Spain would not veto an independent Scotland’s membership of the EU. I don’t want to blow my own trumpet, but this blog has been a lone voice in Scotland arguing from a position of someone who actually speaks Spanish and actually understands Spanish politics – qualities which are all too lacking in Scotland’s mainstream media. The anti-independence media in Scotland was desperate to believe in the “Spain would veto you” myth, and refused to examine it critically. That failure meant that the media in Scotland was doing a gross disservice to the people of Scotland.
Yesterday, we got the definitive word from the horse’s mouth. The Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrell said quite explicitly that Spain would not veto the EU membership of an independent Scotland. Now you might think that the demolition of one of Better Together’s favourite scare stories might be news. You might think that the utter destruction of one of the biggest sticks used by opponents of independence to scare people off the idea of an independent Scotland might be worthy of a few column inches and headlines. You might imagine that it would merit even a tenth of the space and airtime that the Scottish media has devoted to opponents of independence who don’t speak Spanish and who know bugger all about Spain and Spanish politics telling us not to get above our station because Spain would slap us down.
You would of course be wrong. With the honourable exception of The National, which is Scotland’s only pro-indy newspaper, the rest of Scotland’s media has chosen to ignore the story. The Herald and the Scotsman prefer to lead with the “news” that Scotland in Union have produced a poll which asks a non-standard question and gets a non-standard result so that they can crow about how there’s supposedly a massive lead for no – although even that vanishes to a lead within the margin of error in the event of a no-deal Brexit. It’s a well established fact that if you alter the question in a poll you can get an answer more to your liking, so it’s hardly surprising that Scotland in Union did just that. Scotland in Union’s poll has scarcely any more credibility than voodoo online polls.
The Herald and the Scotsman don’t mention the comments of the Spanish Foreign Minister at all, despite the fact that during the independence referendum campaign both papers leapt upon the words on any minor Spanish politician that they could find who was willing to tell them what they wanted to hear. Neither was the story mentioned on the lunchtime Scottish news on the BBC.
The Scotsman once gave a front page lead story to comments from a politician called Alejo Vidal-Quadras Roca, who was a marginal figure within the Spanish governing party at the time, and who has since flounced off to form a far-right extremist party of his own which attracts very few votes. But an interview with the Spanish Foreign Minister in which the man in charge of Spanish foreign policy directly addresses the question of EU membership for an independent Scotland? Apparently that’s not very interesting to the vast bulk of the Scottish press. No doubt someone from Scotland in Union will pop up in a few months or weeks to assure us all that if Scotland becomes independent then Spain will veto Scottish membership of the EU. Because they know better than the Spanish Foreign Minister what Spanish foreign policy is.
Back in 2014 and all through the independence referendum campaign the Spain would veto Scotland story was, and it still remains, one of the British nationalists’ favourite scare stories. Scotland, they tell us, wouldn’t be allowed into the EU because it’s too wee, too poor, and too vetoed by Spain. Even now, after Brexit, and after a number of Spanish politicians have gone on record to contradict the myth and to state that Spain would have no problems accepting Scotland into the EU as long as Scotland’s independence is negotiated and agreed with Westminster, as would be the case, opponents of independence still pop up to warn Scotland against daring to seek independence because “Spain would veto you.”
Every realistic scenario for Scottish independence proposes that Scotland would negotiate its independence with Westminster following a vote in which a majority of the Scottish electorate had chosen independence. In an interview with Politico magazine, Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrell said that if Scotland became independent within the framework of the UK constitution, then Spain would have no problems with this, saying, “If Westminster is in agreement [with Scottish independence] we’re not going to be more papal than the pope.” He then emphasised that the case of Scotland would not be comparable to the independence of Kosovo, which Spain doesn’t recognise.
Kosovo declared independence from Serbia, despite the Serbian constitution expressly prohibiting the secession of any part of Serbian territory, and for this reason Spain will not recognse Kosovo. Spain likewise has a constitutional prohibition on any part of the territory of the Spanish state becoming independent of Spain. Article 2 of the Spanish Constitution states that Spanish territory is “one and indivisible”. Proponents of the “Spain would veto Scotland” myth constantly cite Kosovo, yet here’s the Spanish Foreign Minister himself explicitly ruling out the comparison.
None of this is applicable to Scotland, as there is no constitutional prohibition in the UK on independence votes, and no constitutional bar on a part of the UK becoming independent. In fact, British Prime Ministers have repeatedly recognised the right of Scotland to independence. This happened when David Cameron signed the Edinburgh Agreement committing the British government to accept the result of the independence referendum of 2014. It also happened in the 1980s when Margaret Thatcher stated that if Scotland wanted independence then all it had to do was to return a majority of SNP MPs to Westminster.
Today, yet again, we see the blatant partiality and selective reporting of the Scottish media in full action. We now have a definitive statement from the Spanish government on Scottish independence its attitude towards the EU membership of an independent Scotland, and it is received with silence by the great majority of the Scottish media. You can bet that had Josep Borrell said the opposite, or even if he had merely hinted that Spain might have a minor issue with Scottish independence, then it would have been headline news in the Scottish media and would be the leading story on Reporting Scotland.
I’ve said it before and it’s worth repeating. The biggest obstacle to Catalan independence is the Spanish constitution and the intransigence of Spanish governments. The biggest obstacle to Scottish independence is a Scottish media which revels in stories which oppose independence, and ignores all those which are good for the independence cause. The great majority of the Scottish media doesn’t serve all the people of Scotland, it only serves that part of the Scottish population which opposes independence. It serves Scotland in Union, not Scotland.
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