Time for Rajoy to Show Scotland Some Respect

indexThe chief political virtue of acting Spanish President Mariano Rajoy is a negative virtue and consists of doing nothing, or as little as possible, of watching and waiting, of holding your cards close to your chest and remaining silent, until finally your opponent makes a move, and stumbles and falls into error.

This tactic doesn’t make for glamorous politics but it is highly effective. The homicidal dictator Franco was a master at it and he was in power for forty years in Spain. It is this tactic which explains how it is possible that Rajoy’s corruption wracked Partido Popular won most seats at the Spanish General Election last Sunday. The interim period between the hung Parliament of last December and Sunday’s rerun, saw the other main parties, Podemos, the PSOE and Ciudadanos engage in what looked from the outside like a kind of political vaudeville act– people constantly walking in and out of doors, shaking hands one day, bumping into each other the next – in what appeared to be a common search not to find common ground. Rajoy, meanwhile, did what he does best: nada.

The electorate’s patience was exhausted, its interest sapped over six endless months and the PP unexpectedly won last Sunday, though without a working majority. Pablo Iglesias has attributed the poor electoral showing of Podemos to fear of change, but sheer tedium is a more likely answer. The Left lost one million votes because too many people didn’t bother turning out to cast their ballot paper; politicians tend to forget that most people don’t share their all-consuming interest in the affairs of the public realm.

Thus is was that when Nicola Sturgeon arrived in Brussels last Wednesday, having been universally praised for her statesmanship and seriousness after the disastrous Brexit vote, Rajoy was in ebullient mood and all ready to do his best to stand out from the European crowd and put the spoilers on the day, something which he never fails to do when the word Scotland is even murmured.

Rajoy’s chief passion would appear to be the Spanish national football team and the Spanish national basketball team, and his favourite reading material, apparently, is the Madrid sports newspaper, Marca. So overriding is the sporting passion of Spain’s President that, upon beginning his address at the funeral of Nelson Mandela, at the FNB stadium in Johannesburg, Rajoy announced to the mourners and state dignitaries present, and to the embarrassment of millions of Spaniards at home, just how proud he was to be in the same place where Spain had won the 2010 World Cup, thus showing the same skills in diplomacy as he did the other day when Nicola Sturgeon arrived in Brussels in the middle of the gravest EU crisis ever.

Rajoy’s most sophisticated and oft repeated political maxim is “Spain is a great country”, followed closely by “Spain is a great nation”, and while nobody openly disputes that assertion, the problem is that Rajoy seems to think that everybody else is Spanish, or ought to be, and that Scotland forms some part of Greater Spain, as do 80% of Spain’s paranoid media outlets – with El Pais in pole position – which never fail to misinform, traduce and distort Scotland, its relation to the United Kingdom, and its pretensions to recover the national sovereignty ceded in the Union of Parliaments of 1707, all the more urgent after the Brexit fiasco.

The PP are a nationalist party in a way which is just inconceivable for anybody in Scotland to begin to imagine, because playing on fears of the unity of Spain is a guaranteed vote winner in the Peninsula. Which is why Scotland serves so well in the cracked looking glass of Spanish foreign policy as a surrogate for Catalonia. Nor is Scotland alone in this role. Rajoy’s government would appear to have no real interest in what is going on in the rest of the world – with the obvious exception of sporting tournaments which are presumably followed with fanatical zeal in La Moncloa, the Presidential Palace – except as it pertains to Spain, and plays in Spain, and can be capitalized on in Spanish domestic politics. Scotland is just one example of many.

It was Spanish Foreign Secretary Margallo who was the first European foreign minister to visit Moscow after the annexation of the Crimea, so important to Russian nationhood according to Putin in a way which, say, Catalonia might be argued to be to Spain. More recently, Venezuela has been making the headlines, with the Spanish establishment seeking to smear Podemos by associating them with the regime there, something Le Monde ridiculed recently in the French press. There have been so many visits by Spanish establishment politicians to Venezuela of late, that there is a reasonable case for an hourly shuttle service between Madrid and Caracas. And Rajoy, a man with a passion for austerity economics, chose to visit Greece on the eve of its bailout referendum, anxious that his own domestic austerity policy should not be undermined by the democratic will of the Greek people.

With the tectonic plates of Europe shifting under our feet, Spanish foreign policy stands out in Europe as anachronistic, inflexible and inward looking; out of step with these new changing times: never constructive, always negative. Rajoy would much rather Scotland remain part of the UK, sure, but that is none of his business, and should never come before the integrity of the European project and the dream of a united Europe, in which Scotland has played and continues to play an important part, and has just overwhelmingly endorsed in the Brexit referendum.

Nor should anybody overestimate the power of Spain within the EU, whose decision making process is based on mutual accord between 27 nations and which inevitably involves give and take on all sides, though it took just one phone call from Berlin at the height of the bond crisis for the Spanish Parliament to amend the Spanish Constitution, inserting a 3% deficit cap into what had been an “untouchable” text, with cross-party parliamentary support under former President Zapatero.

Spain might try to slow down an independent Scotland’s adhesion to the EU, but it cannot stop it, that would be unthinkable. And if it cannot stop it, why slow it down? Why not embrace it? It’s important to remember that since Spain joined the EU along with Portugal in 1986, no fewer than 17 countries have become EU members, including Malta and most recently Croatia.

With the EU in serious peril last Wednesday, Mariano Rajoy could not resist snubbing Scotland and thereby Catalonia – describing it as a region as he always does, just as El País newspaper never fails to do, except, of course, when reporting on the inconveniently named Six Nations rugby tournament – revealing himself to be every bit as much a nationalist as Boris Johnson and David Cameron, whose wild and reckless Brexit gamble has left EU leaders somewhere between apoplexy and disbelief.

What kind of foreign policy is this, in which Madrid is far more hostile to the idea of an independent Scotland than London is? Has any British Prime Minister ever expressed even the slightest interest in the domestic politics of Spain, or any Scottish politician for that matter either? Nobody with Europe’s interest at heart can take the Spanish position on Scotland seriously. No serious European politician would meddle in the affairs of a sovereign nation like Rajoy has done in the case of Scotland, time and time again, even going so far as to make an official address on the morning of Scotland’s exemplary democratic referendum in September 2014.

The next time Nicola Sturgeon is in town, if Mariano Rajoy cannot act like a caballero español and even acknowledge the important role Scotland’s First Minister has played over the last week in steadying the ship, then he should stick to what he does best: he should stick to doing nothing.

A Europe in crisis simply cannot afford Spain’s nationalistic and frankly narcissistic foreign policy right now, a moment when the EU needs all the friends and allies it can get.

Comments (40)

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  1. Brian says:

    For ‘Scotland’ insert ‘Gibraltar’ and then multiply Spanish antics by 10. In any case the Scots are now experiencing the real Spain. Welcome to our world!!

  2. Mhari Buchannan says:

    Spain looks tired and out of touch with its people much in the same way as the uk.

    Best policy to deploy against the Spanish government is to ignore it, failing that as its stance on self determination and how that squares with and open and free EU?

  3. florian albert says:

    Two important points are missing here.

    Nicola Sturgeon went out of her way to say that she would be having talks with the (Ant-Brexit) First Minister of Gibraltar. Did nobody tell her that this would be likely to produce a negative reaction from Rajoy – as it did ?

    Rajoy’s statement that, if the UK left the EU, Scotland would leave as it is part of the UK, was almost immediately echoed by President Hollande of France.
    French opposition to, and fear of, existing nation- states in Western Europe breaking up is almost as strong as Spanish opposition.

    The worry for an independent Scotland seeking to join/stay in the EU is that there is no country which cares enough to stand up to the Franco-Spanish opposition.

    1. tartanfever says:

      You fail to take into consideration Hollande’s reason, which has been expressed in a number of press outlets this week.

      With Brexit, it’s almost guaranteed that the city will lose it’s European Banking Passport. That means City based banks will lose the right to trade within EU states without new, lengthy trade negotiations. Not only will this affect UK banks, more importantly, the dozens of world banks that use London as a base for their European operations will most likely move out.

      Hollande is very much looking to capitalise on this scenario. With an election next year and Le pen popular in the polls, the boost to his tax coffers through the relocation of banks to paris would be most welcome.

      However, he has competition. Frankfurt, already a major European finance centre, is vying for the same trade, as is Dublin, Amsterdam and a number of other cities. If Scotland were being given positive signs from all EU members at present, some banks may hedge there bets and stay in London with a thought to shifting up to Edinburgh. Favourable costs and an established finance centre plus skilled workforce makes Edinburgh very attractive.

      Hollande has already made comments that he would be prepared to reduce immigration to the UK in negotiations in return for the definite loss of the Banking Passport now, so he can get those banks shifting.

      This is the reason behind Hollande’s response, which frankly, you can’t blame him for. In the long term, I very much doubt he will have any objections to Scotland entering the EU, or even taking over the UK’s place.

      He just wants the Passport withdrawn as soon as possible and enough time to get some of the banks shifted to Paris

      1. florian albert says:

        French hostility to the break up of existing EU states long predates the recent vote on Brexit.

        With regard to Hollande, his latest cunning plan – get banks to leave London for Paris – to save his political hide is very unlikely to work.

        ‘Hollande has already made comments that he would be prepared to reduce immigration to the UK.’
        He does not have this power within his gift. I doubt that even a political dreamer like Hollonde believes he does.

        1. tartanfever says:

          Totally correct, Hollande doesn’t have the power to guarantee a reduced immigration deal for the UK, but he’s still suggesting it.

          As for the bank movement, I’m unclear as too why this wouldn’t work ? US and Asian banks using London as a base for their European enterprises will have to move if London loses it’s passport , which is looking inevitable. UK banks wanting to trade within the EU will also look to have a presence within an EU country. Paris has a financial sector as does Frankfurt and others – I don’t see how you can rule out Paris at present ?

          1. florian albert says:

            If US and Asian banks have to leave London for a base which is still in the EU, then either France nor Scotland is likely to be their chosen destination.
            If an English speaking city is a priority, then Dublin beats Edinburgh. Otherwise, Frankfurt beats Paris.
            France is unattractive because of its loud hostility to finance capitalism and its inflexible labour market policies.

            Possible explanations for Hollande’s erratic decisions are exhaustion and panic. His country was recently described as ‘occupied by its own army’.

      2. Duncan says:

        you also fail to take into consideration that the growth you depend on is based on unsustainable debt. The banking sysyetm needs a massive correction. The big banks are already in a state of negative interest. Brexit might cost in the short term but this is nothing to the crises round the corner with the banking system in Europe.

        1. tartanfever says:

          I’m not sure who you’re replying to. Yes, banks are pretty stuffed. However, at present the collapse of an industry that adds £190bn to UK GDP has a far greater impact on us here and now than the current crisis in Italian Banks, although that will have a secondary impact.

          Direct losses in the City cuts our budget immediately, if you want to see that first hand, look at the UK public investments that have been stopped just before Brexit or since, or imminent decisions that have been delayed because of funding issues:

          Heathrow third runway
          Tata Steel Rescue
          HS2
          National Funding Formula for Schools
          Courts and Prison reform programme
          Hinckley Point C
          Life Chances Strategy (to help the poor)
          Childhood Obesity Strategy
          Government Digital Strategy
          UK Carbon Plan
          Type 26 built on Clyde

          As for your assertions long term, possibly. No doubt the Euro Commission needs to lessen it’s grip on austerity and to give power back to nation states to bail out it’s banks if necessary.

          However, long term, what’s the plan for London ? Well, it’s why Mervyn King was so upbeat the other week and possibly highlighted best by a single sentence from Fortune magazine:

          ‘London could set itself up as an offshore rival for EU businesses less tolerant to regulation and tax.’

          Yep, that would seem to answer your concerns about where future and fraudulent banking is going to be centred.

          1. Duncan says:

            tartan, I admire your glib dismissal of the entire failure of the European Banking System as merely being pretty stuffed. Also, how can you extricate the Italian banks from being part of a wider European problem? An austerity measure caused by the ECB. And when you say it has an impact on us here: who are you referring to? The people in London? As for the Heathrow third runway, hasn’t this been delayed because the expansionists have been staved off for now by people who want to preserve the precious little country side and wildlife that hasnt been completely destroyed by the growing financial empire that speaks for the rest of the UK?

  4. Davie Park says:

    Well written and very informative piece. Is ignoring him really all we’ve got?

  5. JohnEdgar says:

    Someone has to inform the Acting Spanish Prime Minister that, if Scotland is a “region” of the UK in his eyes, England must be a “region” also!
    Both countries entered into a union by treaty in 1707.
    Or does he suffer from the delusion that the UK is England and Scotland is a region thereof?
    How would he react if England decide to leave the UK and be one independent?
    His stance saddens one. Spain made the initial transition from Franco’s terror regime to a fully fledged democracy. His attitude is one of negativity.
    If he has inner problems with Catalonia, then he has to resolve them internally.
    What Scotland does or does not do is our concern.
    If Spain were to deny is access to the EU, or re- access, then Spanish fishing in Scottish waters would cease.
    I remember the Better Together mob attacking the Yes campaign for suggesting this when Spain raised these obstacles in 2014.
    Well, cooperation and access rights are two way.
    He might be heaved put by the Spanish electorate before long.

  6. Angus Skye says:

    Rajoy needs reminding that Scotland has been part of the EU for a lot longer than Spain.

  7. Big Jock says:

    Imperial Spain is no different from Imperial England. He is just a Spanish right wing Tory. Don’t expect any favours from Madrid they are corrupt and intransigent.

  8. Guy Ropes says:

    “Is ignoring him all we’ve really got?” “Don’t expect any favours from Madrid, they are corrupt and intransigent”. Good luck with your application – I think they’re ignoring YOU. And you want to get in bed with these creeps?

  9. Crubag says:

    Spanish politiciabs may have domestic reasons for framing their rejection in this way but they are saying the sane thing the Commission is, just in different words: no EU membership for stand-alone regions.

    We need to be an independent state – with our own central bank and currency – to make an application.

  10. Broadbield says:

    WGD wrote a good piece on his blog and again in the National yesterday explaining why Rajoy is posturing (and being misreported in the UK gutter press) and will not block Scotland’s accession to or continuation in the EU once we get Independence.

    1. Douglas says:

      I agree with the Wee Ginger Dug’s piece in The National 100% – except maybe the last line.

      Rajoy was misreported and misquoted and indeed he has never ever said that he would veto an indie Scotland in the EU. Why? Because he can’t, it is not up to him, an arbitrary Spanish veto would violate one of the founding principles of the EU….it is out of the question

      No, my point is that, given that Rajoy knows that, and given the Brexit vote, you might have hoped for a softening of Spain’s rhetoric on Scottish indie, instead of the same soundbite for domestic consumption in Spain…

  11. BMD Watson says:

    The MSM would have us believe that Rajboy has the power to veto Scotland’ membership of EU . Thanks to Wee Ginger Dug and Douglas for countering that .

    1. Crubag says:

      Technically they do. To get in requires the assent of all current members.

      WGD’s point was that Rajoy’s comments relate to a substate applying for membership. This is the same as the Commission’s comments.

      As a an independent state, both accept an application would probably pass.

  12. Whatamess says:

    blah blah blah… The Spanish will do what is good for them.. and why not? What exactly do Nattty Scots do for Spain… jack all.. and it make no difference anyway..Europe hate nationalist Scotland. After Spain there is Belgium, France, Germany, Denmark, Portugal, Poland…all of whom are fucked off with Scotty nationalists.

    Dream on self important natty people, but every country in the EU has rejected us?? Do you get it now?

  13. Whatamess says:

    In fact every Spanish person I’ve spoken to from Andalusia, Extramadura, Madrid, Galicia…in fact everywhere but Catalonia and the Basque country, have nothing but contempt for both us nationalist Scots and idiot nationalist English.

    Same with the Germans and the Italians….

    We are hated in Europe. They get it, they see Scot natism as divisive and the same as all their wee nationalisms in their own states. And they will not let their states fall apart.

    1. Glengaber says:

      “In fact every Spanish Person I’ve spoken to…..??”

      I’ve lived here in the Iberian peninsula for 17 years, and travelled and worked throughout all of Europe for 2 or 3 months every year. Not once have I encountered any “contempt for [..] nationalist Scots” nor for the Scottish nation in any form.

      I’m fairly sure that I’m not “hated in Europe”, I know for a fact that some people even love me, and many, many people throughout Europe have expressed to me their admiration (even adulation) for Scotland.

      I can’t think who could have given you that impression…

      1. Willnotbesilenced. says:

        It was put a over stridently, ‘hate’ is not the word that should be used, but the empirical evidence is difficult to deny. In 2014, the only openly supportive country of Scottish independence was Putin’s Russia – India, China, Brazil, USA, EU, Australia, Canada all warned against and lobbied against it. The only real support came from other separatist movements. So you have to look at it from a dispassionate perspective of a moderate, center-ish liberal, mainstream European. I also spend a lot of time working on the continent and although they may be polite and smile, deep down they are not enthused by Scottish nationalism due to the precedent it would have, will, set across Europe – collapsing dominos and all that. They have no emotional dog in the fight so they can see through the ‘civic’ flag of convenience and see it as no different from other nationalisms. They fully, especially the politicians, fully understand that Scottish nationalism was ‘in part’ the catalyst for English nationalism, they see it as a contagion and they don’t want to be infected.

        The elephant in the room is Germany (in particular). Spain it is easy to see why they are so hostile to Scottish entry to the EU – Catalonian separatists get the wind up them, Basques the same and go back to the bad old days, Galicia, Andalucia, Castille, Extramadura etc etc one goes and the whole country is in danger. But Germany has quietly been at the center of efforts to keep us out also. Why? Because of history, the problems of Germany have always been the fact that it’s borders are fluid – Is the Alsace German or French? And they still have many unresolved issues with their borders and a growing nationalism also that they will never let blossom (for obvious reasons). Romania has a significant German population, lower Bavarian nationalists are being encouraged by the worrying far right in Austria, East and West have never really been reconciled properly, then there are nationalist calls for Kaliningrad or Koningsberg which was historically Prussian until the 45 and the USSR invaded, Poland has Silesian nationalism (ethnic Germans) and so on. The Italians have similar issues with the Northern Leagues, Veneto, Tyrol and Austria, Sicily and Sardinia – France have Basques and Catalans, Alsace, Corsica, Brittany (although not as problematic), Sweden has the Aland Islands and separatist Finnish nationalists and along with the Baltics have Russian nationalism to deal with. Portugal has Cabo Verde and Madeira and the Alentejo, Algarve, Duro regionalism. The Netherlands (just like the UK is not Holland and more than UK is England) is a multi national state, Belgium ditto, Danes have their own nationalist problems. Then there is growing tension in Balkans again, Putin stirring things up…

        Frankly most Europeans just see Scotland as a headache they could do without, same with Brexit and farage and Cameron. There is actually a lot of anger out there from moderates towards the various British nationalisms, Brexit of Scottish nationalism. They may smile and say nice things but underneath the smiles there is real politik and self interest.

      2. c rober says:

        I have seen some basques and catalans pissed off with my spanish speaking , but to be fair I get the same from the Southern spaniards too , and the french for that matter. But that isnt chip on the shoulders – unless they see the catalan flag on the bus.

    2. Keith says:

      Thank you for expressing your prejudices might we please hear your reasoned thought now? that is if you have any.

  14. bringiton says:

    When the Queen asked people for 3 reasons to vote Remain,the answers should have been:

    1. WW1
    2. WW2
    3. WW3

    The European project is essentially about preventing unscrupulous politicians in Europe from dragging populations into needless conflict and to find a way to peacefully co-exist.
    That means trying to find accommodations with groups of people who wish more autonomy through democratic means and not at the point of a gun.
    The fundamental problem that the EU has at present is the tension between the nation states and the elected parliament,where the leaders of nation states can effectively veto democratic decision making for purely selfish political gain.
    How ironic that it appears to be the English and the Spanish rulers again who wish to contain Scottish aspirations.

    1. Crubag says:

      I’d say the problem was the opposite. The EU has grown too large to allow individual member states a say, hence the move to qualified majority voting.

      The Commission has also taken over diplomatic duties from member states, such as trade negotiations.

      Member states still have a say on big decisions, such as amending the treaties, which is why it is possible to block the entry of an applicant state.

      1. tartanfever says:

        I’m not sure the EU has grown too large, but certainly the EU Commission is causing all sorts of problems, particularly with Italy and their current banking crisis.

        They seem to be completely out of step with the nation states and still very keen on their austerity programme, which is stoking resentment.

        If they don’t take steps to ease their position and give some flexibility back to the nations, then I fear Brexit will not be the last. Plenty of other countries have their own anti-EU movements.

        1. Crubag says:

          A case in point is the Commission’s proposed depositor protection scheme. It’s logical that a single banking/currency zone has the same protections, but politically German and Dutch taxpayers bailing out Italian depositors does not compute.

          1. Broadbield says:

            The Council of the EU “Negotiates and adopts EU laws, together with the European Parliament, based on proposals from the European Commission”. The Council comprises ministers from each state, so it’s the countries that make the final decision. But of course it’s much easier to score political points by blaming the Commission.

    2. David Allan says:

      The EU is an Empire in the making a United States of Europe as it grows tensions between it’s constituent parts will become the seeds of division. Ultimately without reform to make the project more democratically accountable. The project is doomed by historical precedence.

      NATO offers the better prospect of future peace and stability in Europe not the EU.

      The EU Commission will not acknowledge the flaws that exist and suggests reforms that persistent arrogant dogma is why it will collapse .

  15. Willnotbesilenced. says:

    Oh and there’s yet two more things Alex Salmond lied about (or accidentally got totally wrong) Corporation tax. Osborne is about to slash it to undercut the Irish. According to the SNP only Scotland would ve been able to do that. And Deutschbank have indicated they may be pissing off to Frankfurt – not Edinburgh surprisingly enough. This basically means that every economic policy the SNP outlined in 2014 have blown up in their face. All the ‘scaremongering’ came true.

    1)Oil is a bonus and will be over 100 dollars – Bullshit.
    2) EU will let us in and we will mop up all those businesses/ finacial services – Bullshit
    3) An indy Scotland will be able to slash corp tax to attract business vis a vis the rUK – Bullshit.

    What now nationalists?

  16. Crubag says:

    http://internal.uk.mobile.reuters.com/article/idUKKCN0ZH5DJ

    And there’s more to come. The Commission isn’t like a normal civil service or secretariat, it’s an activist institution that claims a seat at the table, and the members that pay fpr it all are getting restive. Juncker could be the first casualty.

    1. Duncan says:

      Yeah Crubag, it operates as does any government cabinet does. Dont geet sidetracked, get rid of the EU.

  17. Vecino says:

    I speak Spanish and have been in Spain the last few weeks. Couldn’t help but notice that the M80 radio station presented Jo Cox’ murder was by a ‘Nationalista’, without clarifying which nation he was motivated by, then following immediately with an article on the Catalan independence movement.

  18. Strategist says:

    >>>Spanish President Mariano Rajoy

    Prime Minister? Doesn’t Spain have a King?

  19. Stillwillneverbesilenced says:

    Hello Mike Small, Bella censors.

    Could you please re-post my (our) opinion. There was nothing offensive, abusive or untrue. It was simple analysis of the situation by an academic. This is Russian/ Chinese style behaviour. I would suggest you stop being pressured by whoever it is pressurising you to censor inconvenient truths and narratives different to your own, singular utopian fallacy.

    Thanks you.

    1. No one pressures us to do anything. You are being paranoid.

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