The Scottish Government’s Brexit minister has welcomed a commitment from the Spanish foreign minister that Spain would not block an independent Scotland’s bid to re-join the EU after independence.
Mike Russell said the comments by Alfonso Dastis “de-escalate” the row over Scotland’s long-term future as Nationalists seek to hold a second independence referendum on leaving the UK.
Spain has been hostile to Scottish independence amid concerns it will encourage the burgeoning separatist movement in its eastern Catalonia region.
Mr Dastis again confirmed the Spanish government’s opposition to Scottish independence yesterday. But asked whether Spain would veto an independent Scotland joining the EU, he said: “No, we wouldn’t.”
He added: “We don’t want it [Scottish independence] to happen. But if it happens legally and constitutionally, we would not block it. We don’t encourage the break-up of any member states, because we think the future goes in a different direction. Mr Dastis confirmed that Scotland would have to reapply to join the Brussels bloc, contradicting the SNP position in the last referendum that the country could automatically stay in the EU after a Yes vote.
Mr Russell said it was “helpful” to have the Spanish government’s position set out.
“All the speculation about what the Spanish government would or would not do has been wrong – that has been the position of the Spanish government,” Mr Russell said. “I very much welcome it because it equates with reality.”
He added: “It de-escalates the situation. It produces some reality in the situation so then we can have an arguments about the merits of the case, not mis-information which has been coming from a range of sources.”
But Mr Russell disputed claims that Scotland could face a difficult accession process to re-enter the EU.
He pointed to comments from Lord Kerr, who wrote Article 50 on EU departure and said that an independent Scotland would see “a very swift accession negotiation” and that Scotland would “be in very fast”.
Opponents last night warned that an independent Scotland would have to make “sweeping concessions” to get back into the EU.
Scottish Conservative MEP Ian Duncan said: “The issue about an independent Scotland’s EU membership has never been about an individual country’s veto. The truth is the decision would rest in the hands of all 27 member states, each of which would undoubtedly ask for something from Scotland in return.
“This is likely to lead to sweeping concessions, especially for our fishermen.
“This would result in a hugely unfavourable deal, something considerably worse than the UK’s membership of the EU prior to Brexit.”
Spain has never explicitly threatened to block an application from an independent Scotland from the EU, but has taken a robust stance to Nationalist aspirations north of the Border since the Brexit vote.
Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy had been quick to warn he would oppose any attempts to hold talks with Scotland over its EU membership in the immediate aftermath of the Brexit vote as Nicola Sturgeon sought to forge a separate Scottish deal.
Mr Rajoy said that “if the UK goes, Scotland goes too”.
The comments from Mr Dastis were hailed as a “significant intervention” by SNP MP Stephen Gethins.
“We can be now absolutely clear – there is no intention of a ‘Spanish veto’ over Scotland’s EU membership,” he said.
“This is just the latest indication from a senior European diplomat that an independent Scotland would be welcomed into the EU, after Lord Kerr this week said that we’d be in ‘very fast’. EU countries want to be constructive with Scotland.”