Newslines were all abuzz last night with the apparently breathtaking news that Mariano Rajoy, Prime Minister of Spain, had stated that an independent Scotland would automatically be outwith the EU. This “news” was picked up with alacrity by assorted Unionists and blasted around the airwaves as yet another blow to Scottish independence. Now this might, just might have been newsworthy if it had in fact been new. This is after all the basis of news – something we didn’t know about before. However Sr Rajoy’s assertion is anything but new. He has made this claim for well over a year now. All he did in essence was repeat his view that a region which obtained independence would be outside of the EU, and would have to apply for membership.
However if we dig a little deeper and read or listen to what was said, things are not quite as straightforward as our Unionist friends would like to make them. The first point is that at no stage did Sr Rajoy say anything about vetoing Scottish membership of the EU. All he said was that a newly independent country would have to apply for membership. If he wanted to say he would oppose such an application he could have done so. And the press conference was the perfect opportunity for him to have done so.
Secondly, Sr Rajoy admitted that he knew nothing about the Scottish government’s White Paper on Independence. Starting from a position of ignorance is hardly a convincing or trustworthy place to start. He did recognize that the referendum in Scotland is taking place with the official and legal support of the UK government. Which effectively means that he will be in no position to challenge the outcome, particularly if it is Yes. The key point here is that in the White Paper the Scottish government makes it clear that the negotiations for Scotland’s continuing membership of the EU will take place during the period between the referendum and the date of independence, which will not be till March 2016. During this time Scotland will still be part of the UK. As such there would be no grounds for Sr Rajoy, or anyone else in the EU to refuse to participate in these negotiations. After all there will have to be negotiations, if for no other reason than to agree a new settlement for the rest of the UK. I would like someone to explain on what grounds the EU would negotiate the change in the rUK’s status during this period, but would refuse to negotiate Scotland’s changed status. It is also worth pointing out that Sr Rajoy was not asked about what he would do during this time period between a Yes vote and actual independence. No doubt because he has not read the White Paper.
Thirdly, there is the unreported deafening silence from François Hollande, the President of France. For this was a joint press conference after one the regular Franco-Hispano summits. M Hollande was asked to comment on Sr Rajoy’s claims and refused point blank to say anything. Well, to be precise, he said “this is an internal Spanish matter and I have nothing else to say.” Wow, I would have thought that this refusal by the President of France to back up Sr Rajoy’s assertions was “news”. After all this was a wonderful opportunity for M Hollande to show solidarity with the Spanish position. If Sr Rajoy’s claim is so sound and clear why would the French President not offer his support? One can only assume that the President of France does not agree with Sr Rajoy. I wonder why the news media in Scotland have not reported this fact?
Fourthly, let us ponder on the implications of the remarks by the President of France, namely that this is an internal Spanish matter. Now I do not for a moment think that M Hollande believes that Scotland is part of Spain or that Scottish independence is an internal Spanish matter. However by using these words – an internal Spanish matter, the President of France was giving Sr Rajoy a bit of a dressing down. In effect he was dismissing Sr Rajoy’s claims as merely internal politicking and not worthy of comment. Oh that out Unionist friends were so wise!
For this is the rub of the matter, Sr Rajoy and the rest of his Spanish Unionist allies are terrified of the prospect of Catalan independence. And just like their Unionist buddies in the UK their only weapon is fear and scaremongering. It is no surprise that Unionists here would grasp at anything that might conceivably stoke this fear factor. I am though just a little surprised at the glee with which so many Scottish Unionists welcome the prospect, however faint, that Scotland would be cast adrift from the EU. Should they not be advocating for Scotland? However it is pleasing to note that the President of France has refused to join in this particular bout of scaremongering. There may yet be life in the Auld Alliance. The Wee ginger Dug has another take on this little non-event which you can read here.