UK ambassador to Spain says Westminster “could say no” to Scottish independence

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By a Newsnet reporter

The UK’s ambassador to Spain has made an extraordinary intervention in the debate on Scottish independence by speaking about the issue to a breakfast meeting in Madrid attended by Spanish politicians. 

Giles Paxman, who has been the British ambassador in Madrid since 2009, noted that there is no majority for Scottish independence amongst Westminster MPs, and that if Westminster was so minded it “could say no” to Scottish independence, even if a majority of Scots voted in favour.

Mr Paxman said:  “In the event that there was to be [a vote for] Scottish independence, I can tell you that the political parties of the United Kingdom are against it.”  

He added: “There is currently no majority for independence in Scotland.”   Mr Paxman did not clarify the basis of this comment.

However he reminded his audience that the British government has declared that it is in favour of a referendum which would clarify the “constitutional future of Scotland”, but that it would negotiate with the Scottish “executive” in order that the vote was “made in a legal, fair and decisive manner” in order to avoid it being questioned in the courts.

The ambassador said that in the opinion of the British government, the right to hold the referendum must be ceded by Westminster to Holyrood, adding that the power to hold a referendum was reserved to the Westminster Parliament.  

He then pointed out that in the event that the Scots vote in favour of independence, the terms of independence would have to be negotiated with Westminster in order for it to be put into effect.  “There would be a lot to negotiate,” said the ambassador.  

Asked what the impact of Scottish independence would have on Catalunya or the Basque Country, Mr Paxman replied:  “I honestly don’t know.  First we have to see how the Scots will vote.”

Giles Paxman is the younger brother of controversial BBC presenter Jeremy Paxman, who recently provoked outrage in Scotland by likening First Minister Alex Salmond to Robert Mugabe.