Catalonia plus Scotland: What’s at stake for Madrid

As Spain promises non-interference on Scotland my question is as follow: No matter what was said, how much is Madrid nervous about Scotland in your opinion? Read few comments.

Diego Muro, Assistant Professor, Institut Barcelona d’Estudis Internacionals (IBEI)

It is impossible to know whether the government is ‘nervous’ or not. What can be said, however, is that the Spanish government is following the developments in the UK very closely.

If Scotland votes against independence this result will be used as ‘ammunition’ to counter the separatist movement in Catalonia (and any future moves in the same direction in the Basque Country). If Scotland votes in favour, the government will no doubt emphasise the historical and constitutional differences between the Spanish and British cases. In other words, Scotland may be used as precedent, but that depends on the outcome of the referendum.

With regards to the quote from Foreign Minister Margallo, he said that Spain would not block a process of accession to the EU. As far as I know, however, he has not clarified whether Spain would consider vetoing the whole process. Remember that in order for negotiations to start, the applicant country needs of the positive unanimous vote of all EU member states. Only one country can derail the process and I bet the Spanish government does not want to show that card yet.

Carsten Humlebæk,  Assistant ProfessorDepartment of International Culture and Communication Studies, Copenhagen Business School

I think Madrid is bothered or nervous about the Scottish independence vote to the extent that it sets a precedent for secession processes both within national boundaries and within the EU system, which obviously has not been very well prepared for this type of process.

The defence of Madrid – as it is also spelled out by Margallo in the interview – will be that the two processes are “fundamentally different”: the Scottish process apparently legal, but the Catalan process obviously illegal in that it is inconstitutional. But the fact that the claim is supported by a majority in the Catalan case constitutes a moral problem for this argument.

The EU system as well as both Spain and Great Britain (at least to some extent) will insist that secession means to apply for membership and thus wait in line… But there would a case to be made if the Catalan or Scottish citizens brought it to the European Court of Justice which with some probability would rule against the EU/Spain/Great Britain in favour of the Catalans and/or Scots by saying that they cannot be deprived of their rights as European citizens just because they want an independent state.

Alejandro QuirogaReader in Spanish History, School of Historical Studies, Newcastle University

The comments by García Margallo, the Spanish foreign minister have a twofold reading. Firstly, we do not interfere in other country’s affairs, the implication being, so ….. please do the same in the case of Spain and Catalonia.

Secondly, the EU is the ultimate frontier and it is not in the interest of Catalonia to gain independence because this would leave Catalonia out of the EU, hence bankrupted.

But, regardless what the Spanish foreign minister says, I think the fact that London is allowing the celebration of the referendum in Scotland does not look good on Madrid by comparison. However, I do not think this is a major issue for the Spanish government because Brussels, Berlin and Paris are firmly opposed to the independence of Catalonia. A more receptive position by Brussels, Berlin or Paris could have more serious implications for the Spanish conservatives than the referendum in Scotland, although this seems unlikely at the moment.

Francisco Romero Salvado, Reader in Modern Spanish History, University of Bristol

I believe Madrid thinks the UK government made a mistake letting Scotland vote. Still, I also believe there will be a majority vote against independence in Scotland. This probably helps the cause of unionism in Spain (remember how much ERC insisted on the Catalan vote going ahead that of Scotland).

Luis Bouza García, Academic Coordinator of European General Studies courses, College of Europe

I think Spain is not concerned, I already foresaw this position by Spain a few months earlier for a British journalist. Spain emphasises general rules of international and internal law, and will recognise the new state if it considers that secession has respected internal and international agreements. Spain has not recognised Kosovo because of the unilateral secession. Actually the distinction provides a further argument for the Spanish government, in emphasising that unlike Scotland, there is no internal political and legal mechanisms to facilitate Catalonia’s referendum. Whether there are or not I think is a different debate.

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