Spain asserts constitutional differences between Catalonia and Scotland

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   By a Newsnet reporter

The Spanish foreign minister José Manuel García-Margallo has reasserted the constitional differences between Scotland and Catalonia and has again stated that Spain would refuse to recognise any unilateral declaration of independence by the Catalans.

Mr García-Margallo also warned Catalan independence supporters that a “goodbye to Spain is a goodbye to Europe”, and said that Spain would ensure that the EU would “put obstacles” in the way of Catalan accession to the EU.

Mr García-Margallo was speaking in response to comments made earlier this week by British Prime Minister David Cameron.  Asked by Spanish journalists covering the G-8 summit in London about the Scottish independence referendum, Mr Cameron replied that regarding questions of nationhood, independence or identity “the best thing is to make your arguments, face the problem, and allow the people to decide”.

Although Mr Cameron made no mention of Catalonia, his remarks were welcomed by supporters of the Catalan independence process.

However the Spanish foreign minister is keen to dampen down Catalan expectations and speaking on Thursday said that “each country has its own internal constitutional order”. 

He added that even though the decision of Mr Cameron to permit a referendum in Scotland is “correct within the internal point of view” of the UK constitution, this “is not the case with the Spanish Constitution”

According to the Spanish Government the Spanish Constitution asserts clearly that sovereignty resides in the Spanish people as a whole, and “guarantees the indivisibility of Spain”.  

Mr García-Margallo insisted that irrespective of whether a country became independent unilaterally, or following an agreement such as that between Holyrood and Westminster, the new state would be outside the EU and other EU members would have to agree to its accession.  However he admitted that the obstacles to Scottish membership of the EU would be considerably fewer than those facing Catalonia.

The Spanish Government has previously signalled that it would not object to Scottish membership of the EU.  In a statement last year, Mr García-Margallo said that should Scotland become an independent state following a constitutional process which was recognised by Westminster, Spain “would have nothing to say”.

However Mr García-Margallo asserted that the obstacles facing Catalonia’s accession to the EU would be “absolutely definitive” should Catalonia make a unilateral declaration of independence not recognised by Madrid.  Under such circumstances Spain would veto Catalan membership.  According to the Spanish foreign minister this would be devastating to the Catalan economy.

The Scottish Government maintains that it will negotiate Scottish entry into the EU in the 18 month period between a Yes vote in the referendum and the formal declaration of independence, so that membership could be achieved without Scotland having to leave the EU.  In a recent interview with the BBC, former Irish Prime Minister John Bruton said that this timetable appeared reasonable.