Scotland’s Brexit minister has welcomed confirmation from Spain that it would not initially block an independent Scotland’s attempts to join the European Union (EU).
Madrid’s foreign minister Alfonso Dastis has reportedly said Spain would not veto an independent Scotland’s EU hopes – while stressing he does not want to see the country leave the United Kingdom.
Scottish Government minister Michael Russell said the comments will help to end “misinformation” about Spain’s position regarding Scotland and the EU.
Addressing reporters in Europe, Mr Dastis suggested an independent Scotland would have to apply for EU membership – something which could take several years.
Asked whether Spain would veto an independent Scotland joining the EU, he reportedly said: “No, we wouldn’t.”
Mr Dastis told The Guardian: “We don’t want it (Scottish independence) to happen. But if it happens legally and constitutionally, we would not block it.”
Responding to the statement, Mr Russell, the minister for UK negotiations on Scotland’s place in Europe, told BBC Scotland: “That has been the position of the Spanish Government for some considerable time.
“All the speculation about what the Spanish Government would or wouldn’t do has been wrong.
“I very much welcome it (the comments) because it equates with reality.”
Mr Russell said the foreign minister’s remarks on the method of accession may not be “quite as accurate” but went on: “What this does is it de-escalates the situation, it produces some reality in the situation, so then we can have an argument about the merits of the case, not misinformation which has been coming from a range of sources.”
SNP MP Stephen Gethins described it as a “significant intervention” by Spain’s foreign minister.
“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 and will respect the democratic will of the Scottish people if we choose to be independent.”
Any prospective application to the EU can be vetoed by any member.
Spain, nervous about its own internal separatist movements, has previously suggested Scotland would be at the “back of the queue” to join the European Union if it achieves independence.
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.”
MSPs voted by 69 to 59 last week in favour of seeking permission for an independence referendum to take place between autumn 2018 and spring 2019.
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has written to Prime Minister Theresa May with a formal request for a Section 30 order, the mechanism to transfer the powers to hold a referendum to Holyrood.
The UK Government has said it will decline the request, with Prime Minister Theresa May repeatedly stating “now is not the time” for another vote on the issue.