Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has issued perhaps the most vicious attack on Scottish independence from a foreign national leader, calling the referendum in Scotland “a torpedo to the waterline of the European Union” in domestic newspaper El Mundo.
The Spanish minister for European affairs, Inigo Mendez de Vigo, has also been on the offensive. This week he rejected the idea that Scotland could rejoin the bloc quickly after independence on the BBC’s Newsnight show. De Vigo said a unanimous agreement from all countries and a protracted negotiation would be required, taking around five years.
De Vigo added that Scotland would not get the same opt-out from joining the euro that the UK currently enjoys.
“I don’t see in the future, for any member state to be granted that possibility.”
But why such a big fuss from Spanish politicians?
It all comes back to Spain’s multitude of sub-national independence movements. While Scotland’s potential independence might be a headache for the UK, for Madrid the prospect of all of Spain’s independence movements succeeding is a nightmare:
If all of Spain’s independence movements were successful, the remainder would barely have a coastline at all. Catalonia independence is becoming increasingly popular, ahead of a referendum scheduled for November which the Spanish government regards as illegal.
Catalonia is not the only serious movement: a group of Basque separatist terrorists only handed in the last of their arms in February this year, after decades of militancy.
The Portuguese, of course, already succeeded in seceding from the Iberian nation.
The anti-independence streak is cross-party among Spanish politicians. Under the last government, Socialists Workers’ Party foreign minister Miguel Angel Moratinos even refused to acknowledge Kosovan independence from Serbia.
Moratinos was even made an honorary citizen of Serbian capital Belgrade a year later.
Whether the Spanish government would actually hold up Scottish membership of the EU if the referendum passed is an open question. Based on the example of Kosovo, they might try to do so if only to make an example for their own separatists.
Other EU leaders may not take so kindly to one country holding up accession over a domestic spat.