The Scotland Papers

Ben Wray reports for Bella from Spain where the leaked ‘Scotland Papers’ expose a bizarre set of relations between Scotland and Spain, and examples of paranoia, bullying and racism in the Spanish Foreign Ministry.

They call it ‘Los Papeles de Escocia’. The Scotland Papers, a leak of 80 documents from the Superior Court of Justice of Madrid to the right-wing Spanish paper ‘Vozpopuli’.

Half of the documents are e-mails between the former Spanish diplomat in the Edinburgh consulate, Miguel Ángel Vecino, and the key staff of his then boss, Josep Borrell, Spanish Foreign Minister (pictured, right). On 1 December, Borrell will officially start work as the EU’s Foreign Affairs Minister.

The court case came about after Vecino was fired by Borrell, following the 6 June publication in The National of a letter from Vecino to the Scottish Government, in which the former diplomat said Spain would not block an independent Scotland’s EU membership. Vecino is taking the Spanish Government to court for wrongful dismissal.

So far the documents have yielded eight stories on Vozpopuli, each in their own way remarkable.

The picture the articles collectively paint is one of a Spanish Foreign Ministry obsessed by Catalonia, to the point of unhinged levels of paranoia, and willing to deploy the full-range of underhand tactics – including bullying, spying and deceit – to get what they want, with apparently few scruples about interfering in the domestic affairs of other states.

Furthermore, the documents suggest a worrying culture among Spanish diplomats, where racist attitudes are apparently tolerated.

Sadly, it’s also necessary to state that the documents paint the picture of a Scottish civil service far too willing to play ball with the unreasonable demands of the Spanish state, in an almost deferential spirit.

The documents show too that the Scottish Government is too easily swayed by Pedro Sánchez’ government’s public comments about an independent Scotland, which have little to do with their real views, and are in fact a carefully calculated strategy to isolate the Catalan government internationally.

Note: The truthfulness of the remarks made by Vecino in these leaked documents, which range across multiple conversations with multiple individuals, could not be fully verified by second sources. The Scottish Government has told Bella Caledonia that: “The remarks reportedly attributed to Vecino contain a number of serious inaccuracies.”

Borrell’s Scottish ruse

Miguel Ángel Vecino was a new appointee at Spain’s Edinburgh consulate, just nine months into the job before he was unceremoniously dumped. Vecino came in as a new Spanish Government had just taken over a few months earlier, in June 2018, when former Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy was deposed following a corruption scandal, leading to Pedro Sánchez, the leader of centre-left PSOE, taking the reins.

A new government with a new top diplomat in Edinburgh, they naturally sought a new approach to Scotland. What was it?

Vecino was summoned to a meeting in a Madrid restaurant with Camilo Villarino, the chief of staff to Foreign Affairs Minister Josep Borrell. Villarino made clear that Borrell was “very interested” in everything to do with Scotland, Vecino was told, because: “Scotland is the main haven and support system of the Catalan secessionists”.

A few days later Vecino met Jorge Romeu, Borrell’s advisor on Catalonia, who was even more explicit: Vecino’s task was “curbing and even rooting out the presence of the Catalan secessionists out of Scotland”. Borrell wanted a new approach from the Rajoy days; much more interventionist and pro-active on the European scene.

“Borrell believes that fighting nationalist movements is a priority of its foreign policy and Scotland is a key element in his strategy,” Romeu said.

Shortly after, Borrell was asked at a public event whether he would back an independent Scotland entering the EU.

“Why not?” He replied. “If Scotland leaves the United Kingdom in accordance with British law and Westminster agrees, why would we oppose?”

Following Borrell’s remark, Vecino reported that he sensed that the “atmosphere has radically changed” in Edinburgh.

Vecino said “passivity” towards the Scottish Government under Rajoy had weakened Spain’s position, but “if we proceed carefully and we take advantage of these new open doors, in a relatively short amount of time we will be able to win support and sympathy.”

This prediction was put to the test shortly after, when Sturgeon’s official Twitter account (not her personal one) tweeted support for the Catalan independence leaders being tried by the Spanish courts. Madrid demanded action. Vecino said it must have come from a “brainless” staffer and noted that the rest of the Scottish Government’s Cabinet had not re-tweeted it.

Nonetheless, Vecino took Madrid’s complaints to the Head of Scotland’s European Affairs, Frank Lang, who, according to Vecino, immediately said Sturgeon’s tweet was “indefensible”. Lang told Vecino that the Scottish Government and SNP had refused to sign a manifesto in support of the Catalan imprisoned leaders.

Then, Vecino met Sturgeon for a meeting. The First Minister lamented the police violence during the Catalan referendum in 2017 but agreed with Vecino: “that is in the past,” she said.

Sturgeon criticised the trial of Catalan political leaders, but assured Vecino that: “most importantly, I do not wish to meddle in any kind of way with Spain’s business”.

Vecino concluded from the meeting: “I am completely sure that she will start to put aside her support of Catalan independence.”

What was the Scottish Government winning in return for its deference? Certainly not Spain’s neutrality on the question of Scottish independence. In a later communique, Villarino said that Scottish independence “would open a Pandora’s box in Europe with unforeseeable consequences”.

“Don’t ever forget that our bid is on the United Kingdom, not on Scotland, even though the British Government is not going through its best times,” Villarino reminded Vecino.

Romeo said Vecino should keep in mind Scots’ “simple mindedness”.

“They lend themselves to manipulation by Catalan independence supporters,” he added.

Borrell’s Scottish ruse was not for nothing, He had a clear purpose in mind: to shut down support for the Catalan independence cause. The depressing finding from The Scotland Papers is that the ruse was to a large extent successful.

To highlight just one example, when a cross-party visit of Catalan MPs to the Scottish Parliament was planned, Madrid demanded Vecino put a stop to it. Unable to shut it down completely, they hatched a plan to delay it until after the Spanish General Election in May 2019. Fergus D. Cochrane, Scottish Government head of international relations, offered to Vecino that he would check that the delegation was genuinely cross-party, and cancel if it weren’t.

Not good enough, came back the message from Madrid. To convince Cochrane to delay, Romeo told Vecino to say that Spain would treat it as “an incident”, possibly even an “intrusion into the General Elections”, if the visit went ahead. Furthermore, Cochrane was to be reminded of Borrell’s comment in which he was open to an independent Scotland’s EU entry, and that if the right-wing parties won the election, they almost certainly would reverse such a policy.

Cochrane backed down, and the delegation was delayed until after the election.

The paranoia, bullying and racism of the Spanish Foreign Ministry

The story of the Catalan delegations delayed visit is just one of many examples of the extreme paranoia of the Spanish Foreign Ministry towards Catalonia.

Another is their successful efforts in squashing a Scottish Chamber of Commerce visit to and delegation from Catalonian business leaders. Not once but twice the SCC was convinced by Vecino that it was a bad idea to meet with Catalan business.

Vecino told the SCC that if they organised a tour to Barcelona they would encounter “difficulties” in being received by the Spanish Chambers of Commerce in Madrid.

When a tour was organised to Scotland, Villarino demanded that no pro-independence Catalan business figures be allowed to join the delegation. Vecino responded that he didn’t control the guest list, leading Villarino to conclude: ”to avoid surprises, just put a stop to this visit and to any other”.

Such treatment is not solely reserved for the Catalans. When the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV), head of the Basque regional government, visited Catalonia on an official visit, Vecino was ordered to spy on them.

Then when a Memorandum of Understanding between Nicola Sturgeon and Iñigo Urkullu, the president of the Basque Government, had been drafted, Madrid was not happy about it when it found out. In the end, it was never signed.

Perhaps the most bizarre episode was when changes to Scotland’s consular system sparked a full on panic in Madrid, for the reason that there was “a similar consular body in Barcelona” as to the new one proposed in Scotland. Vecino informed London of what was happening and went as far as to ask “if the Foreign Office was going to forbid it”.

The Foreign Office told the Scottish Government that Madrid was concerned, and so when the Scottish Government asked Vecino what the problem was, he lied and said Madrid wasn’t really concerned. In the end, London prohibited the consular changes.

This is not the only example in The Scotland Papers of interference in other country’s affairs. The documents also show that Madrid had “under surveillance” foreign diplomats based in Barcelona. In July, Hywel Williams, Welsh MP on the All Party Parliamentary Group on Catalonia in the House of Commons, expressed concern about “covert surveillance” by Spain, something the deputy speaker, Eleanor Laing, said she took “very seriously”.

But we leave the most shocking finding until last. Vecino wrote an e-mail to Borrell’s staff about Aamer Anwar, the lawyer of Clara Ponsatì, former Catalan Education Minister and St Andrews University professor who is facing extradition charges from the Spanish Government.

In the e-mail, Vecino makes a number of claims that range from the absurd to the outright Islamophobic. Vecino claims that Anwar wants Spain to be “reclaimed by Islam”, in reference to when an Arabic Empire ruled most of Spain as a Caliphate from 711 to 1415. This is an Islamophobic trope typical of the Spanish far-right, who describe immigrants from majority Muslim countries as seeking a new Caliphate.

The document goes on to make a number of other claims about Anwar, including that he “is not much appreciated” in Scotland’s Muslim community, that Anwar’s links in the community are “clearly used for his political purposes, without ever having really done anything”. Anwar, according to Vecino, ”attracted Muslims” to the SNP and is “becoming the leader of the Islamist group”, and that he “usually leads Muslims to their demonstrations” in support of Ponsatì. Anwar had used the Ponsatì extradition case as a “political catapult”, Vecino argued.

Anwar has described Vecino’s comments as “racism and bigotry”.

Vecino’s remarks were sent on 13 February, a full four months before he was fired. We have asked the Spanish Foreign Ministry and the EU Ministry for Foreign Affairs whether Borrell believes Vecino’s remarks, as a member of his staff at the time, were appropriate, or if Vecino was reprimanded for the remarks by Borrell when they were sent. We have received no answer.

Questions for Borrell – questions for Spain

In fact, Bella Caledonia has asked the Spanish Foreign Ministry, the EU Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Scottish Government and the Scottish Chambers of Commerce a series of questions relating to the findings in The Scotland Papers, and received no answers, other than the Scottish Government stating that Vecino’s remarks “contain a number of serious inaccuracies”.

The EU Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson told Bella Caledonia “to direct these questions to the Spanish Foreign Ministry”. The Spanish Foreign Ministry asked which news outlet this article would be published, and when we answered there was no further response. The Scottish Chambers of Commerce did not respond.

Borrell in particular should have to explain what has been uncovered about his Ministry. He will shortly be the EU’s representative on the world stage, and has spying on foreign diplomats, interference in the domestic affairs of a foreign state and tolerating the racist attitudes of a member of staff hanging over his head, and therefore hanging over his new office.

The European Commission has already had to censure him for tweeting out personal information relating to Clara Ponsatì, a clear violation of EU laws on the right to privacy. Borrell’s managed to become an embarrassment to Brussels before even starting the job.

But ultimately this isn’t about Borrell. It’s about Spain, and the Spanish state in particular. No one could say that the attitudes and actions revealed in The Scotland Papers are that of a healthy democratic institution.

Pedro Sànchez appears to be holding onto power following the 10 November General Election, with the help of the left-wing Podemos and possibly pro-independence forces in Catalonia and the Basque Country. If the actions of Sànchez’s Foreign Minister are anything to go by, those forces should tread carefully. They are dealing with a state transfixed by anti-Catalan paranoia.

Comments (26)

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  1. Bert Logan says:

    Opened my eyes … somewhat diappointing, but Scotland has no real ‘foreign policy’ position, so its hard to pin.

    1. Derek Henry says:

      Heart of Europe is their foreign policy.

      Just waiting for the IMF to sweep in and privatise everything they can get their hands on.

  2. Douglas says:

    What does Ben Wray think the goal right of a right-wing Spanish newspaper is in leaking this story right now while Pedro Sánchez is trying to form a government which needs at least the abstention of Catalan independence party, Esquera Republican, to happen? Quo bono?

    Borell is a Catalan of course, though Ben doesn’t mention this.. he doesn’t need an adviser on Catalonia.

    I don’t see what the Scottish independence movement has to gain from this kind of leak, depressing and unsurprising reading though it makes?

    I don’t think anything at all to be honest…

    1. Josep M. Puig says:

      Borrell is a fierce catalanophobic spanish nationalist. Catalonia was only the place where he was borned, but he has always lived in Madrid and he hates any catalan thing.

      1. PictAtRandom says:

        For some reason this reminds me that we haven’t heard a lot from Michael Gove lately. (Where did that arrow just come from?)

      2. Lorna Campbell says:

        Hi, Mr Puig, that sounds just like a number of anti Scottish Scots, too. Born in Scotland, but hate any mention of nationhood or independence. I thought we had a particularly bad case of it, but the Catalans evidently have the same problem. They always suggest compromise and co-operation, but it is always one-sided – ours only – which amounts to servility. When they speak of ‘our country’, they mean a Britain that does not exist except in terms of what England stands for and wants. Sad state of affairs in both our countries.

    2. K2 says:

      Well, Mr Borrell was born in Catalonia, but he has always been a catalanophobic unionist.

      Although he was born in a tiny village in Catalonia, he migrated to Madrid when he was 18.

      If Mr Borrell is a minister, it is not because of his talented skills, but because thick brains like yours can easily argue that he is a (catalanophobic) Catalan fighting catalanism.

  3. Alasdair Macdonald says:

    I get whiffs of weasel words on the part of the writer from this to undermine the position of the Scottish Government and perhaps to plant seeds of doubt in the minds of some supporters. I hope I am wrong.

    “Sadly, it’s also necessary to state that the documents paint the picture of a Scottish civil service far too willing to play ball with the unreasonable demands of the Spanish state, in an almost deferential spirit.” – evidence? There aremore than strong hints that ‘Scotland is no very good’ – the old unionist trope.

  4. Charles L. Gallagher says:

    Seems that they have learned duplicity well from Wastemonster’s Foreign Office!!!

  5. Derek Henry says:

    ” But ultimately this isn’t about Borrell. It’s about Spain, and the Spanish state in particular. No one could say that the attitudes and actions revealed in The Scotland Papers are that of a healthy democratic institution. ”

    No it’s not it is the EU and just how neoliberal globalist it has become.

    Just look at who they have given jobs to in the recent appointments.

    And that is what Scottish voters want to be at the centre of.

  6. Derek Henry says:

    It is very interesting that some people who want independence only ever see things that they want to see. So they end up saying different things out of both sides of the same mouth.

    It is not the EU’s fault they say it is Tory policies over 40 years and austerity policies since the crash that is why people voted for Brexit.

    It is not the EU’s fault they say it is Greece fault for austerity right across the Eurozone.

    It is not the EU’s fault they say it is Italy’s fault for austerity right across the Eurozone.

    It is not the EU’s fault they say it is France fault for austerity right across the Eurozone.

    Without recognising austerity is ” built in ” to the neoliberal fiscal rules.

    And now it is not the EU’s fault they say it is Spain’s fault for austerity right across the Eurozone.

    The real culprit is very clear but they just can’t bring themselves to say it.

    The EU cannot be democratised – here’s why

    ” The EU’s guiding principles are clearly espoused in the prefix to the chapter on economic policy, where it says that the EU and its member states must conduct economic policy ‘in accordance with the principle of an open market economy with free competition’ and to comply with the guiding principles of ‘stable prices, sound public finances and monetary conditions and a sustainable balance of payments’.

    Other relevant articles of the TFEU include:

    Article 81, which prohibits any government intervention in the economy ‘which may affect trade between Member States’;

    Article 121, which gives the European Council and European Commission – both unelected bodies – the right to ‘formulate … the broad guidelines of the economic policies of the Member States and of the Union’;

    Article 126, which regulates the disciplinary measures to be adopted in case of excessive deficit;

    Article 151, which states that the EU’s labour and social policy shall take account of the need to ‘maintain the competitiveness of the Union economy’; and

    Article 107, which prohibits state aid to strategic national industries.

    The treaties essentially embedded neoliberalism into the very fabric of the European Union, effectively outlawing the ‘Keynesian’ polices that had been commonplace in the previous decades. They prevent currency devaluation and direct central bank purchases of government debt (for those countries that adopted the euro.) They prevent demand-management policies, or the strategic use of public procurement, and they place tight curbs on generous welfare provisions and the creation of employment via public spending. They have laid the basis for a wholesale re-engineering of European economies and societies.

    What is happening in Spain is a side show a mere circus compared to the main act.

    1. Derek Henry says:

      The people who are funding the Catalan surge for undependence.

      Do not even want to leave the Euro. They love the Euro it allows them to steal even more wealth. None of the rich people want to leave the Euro and use the media to keep everyone enslaved.

      It allows bond holders to get their money out risk free.

      So even if they get independence the Euro will keep them slaves. The Catalan’s just like Italy has found out will never be able to do what they want to do after independence.

      The revenge of the rich

  7. Douglas says:

    Bella Caledonai readers have to understand that there is a concentrated and ongoing effort which goes back to April 2019 by the Spanish establishment, to prevent a PSOE-Podemos government coming about. It’s no secret, it’s in the papers every day. There isn’t a day which goes by in which some well known Spanish establishment figure doesn’t come out against it, predicting anarchy and disaster etc etc.

    If that government is ever formed, it will be the first time in modern Spanish history that we have a progressive left leaning government in power. The PSOE, while much prferrable to the PP, were never really left wing, they modernized Spain in the 80s and 90s more than anything else but, for example, they never did create a universal welfare State.

    Sanchez has only come to agree a deal with Podemos because there is no other option. He would have preferred to do a deal with Ciudadanos, but for some bizarre reason, Alber Rivera refused that offer and was then punished by his voters two weeks ago at the general elections when Ciudadanos were wiped out.

    With the Sanchez-Iglesias government comes a glimmer of hope regarding the situation in Catalonia, a change of atmosphere and the chance of dialogue (within the terms of the Spanish Constitution). Which is why Esquera Republicana will probably lend their votes so that Sanchez becomes PM, even though their leader, Junqueras, is in jail.

    What does this leak do? Well, it sows more discord between the PSOE and the leadership of the Catalan independence movement, above all it is negative for Sanchez and Borell and furthers the chance of a repeat election which the Right would hope to win.. though, really, there is nothing much in it except and so says so and so….

    If the leak came from the Tribunal Supremo, well it’s just another in a long line of leaks from what is the highest court in Spain, which included the sentences of the Catalan prisoners before they were even told themselves.

    If I was defending Clara Ponsati, I would probably point out in passing that these constant leaks from within the highest court in all Spain, the Spanish Supreme Court, really do nothing at all for the image of the Spanish judiciary in the wider world…. they significantly undermine the public’s confidence in the Court.

    1. Marga says:

      Douglas, you might already know that the socialist Rubalcaba said Spain knew It would pay a price in eroded democracy by weaponising all Spanish institutions against Catalonia. Noone in the EU currently has democracy as a priority, far from It though, so that is OK. The Catalán left indy party is thought to be negotiating for Spain wide left coalitions and power, hopefully w. Indy influence, in Threeparty coalitions throughout the state, hanging their fellow indies in the wind. The presence of ultras Vox might get them a place at the table, but influence,? Spain’s approach to coalition involves saying “Yes Bwana” to power, Not sure where yr optimism comes from, sadly.

      1. Douglas says:

        Marga, I cannot understand your way of thinking at all…

        Who are you people to talk about democracy? You unilaterally declared a republic on less than half the popular vote. That’s not democratic…. .and let’s not forget, the last time a country declared UDI in Europe (Slovenia), it sparked the Balkans War, which led to hundreds of thousands of people dying.

        It’s a highly risky thing to do and can only be contemplated when all of the democratic options have been exhausted, and not once, but twice. In no way did the Catalan Govern exhaust all the democratic options, much less a second time round….

        To be taken seriously by the EU and international bodies, you must be scrupulously democratic and I have long argued that the Scottish independence movement should stay well clear of the Catalan independence movement, because you are a bunch of hotheaded amateurs with too much “rauxa” and not enough “seny”…

        …with no patience whatsoever, no credible strategy and no consideration of the consequences of your actions… you know, democratic politics doesn’t consist of going on endless marches? It involves above all persuasion, reason, listening to other people and trying to convince them of your position…

        Instead, you insult other Spaniards, especially Spaniards from the poorer parts of Spain like Andalusia and Murcia… you look down your nose at these parts of Spain, and you demonize all of Spain as “fascist” instead of building alliances with progressive Spain, which is about half the country…

        Even worse, the Catalan prisoners have all said during the trial that they weren’t really setting up a Republic, that it was all symbolic…otherwise said, it was a political stunt which is borne out by the events of October 2017 in Catalonia….If you were really serious about setting up a Republic, the Catalan govt would have done a number of things they didn’t do, like send Catalan police and officials to man the borders etc….

        The Spanish Supreme Court, in its finding, agreed that the Republic was in effect no more than symbolic…. and then handed down sentences as if it was actually real… in yet another round of madness in the endless game of “who can be more irrational, pig-headed and undemocratic” which these last few years in Spain have been …

        But the kids out on the streets of Barcelona don’t know the Republic was symbolic, or don’t realize it and they’re the ones on the receiving end of all those police charges or losing their eyes from rubber bullets, while your leader, Carles Puigdemont, is in Belgium hell bent on doing all he can to make sure a government can’t be formed in Madrid…

        I tell you one thing about the Scots, Marga, they’re not cowards, they don’t run away…. how can Puigdemont declare a Republic and then run away like a fearty to Belgium while the kids of Catalonia are going to jail?

        Sorry, the intransigence of Rajoy’s govt on a binding democratic referendum does not give you the right to throw the democratic rule book out of the window and cause never-ending chaos, and then come running to Scotland and the rest of Europe and except us to be sympathetic to your cause…

        My patience with those supporting Catalan independence has long since been exhausted…

        1. referendum yes or yes says:

          I believe most Catalans they want to VOTE – either yes or no.

          Anything not supporting this referendum, to me, is plain silly. We’re in the 21st century for God’s sake.

          1. Douglas says:

            Referendum Yes or Yes:

            Of course I support a Catalan referendum in principle, but that is not going to be possible right now given the situation, is it? It’s out of the question for the moment given events over the last two years.

            You see, if the Catalan Govern had been prudent and cautious and in September 2015, when they lost the Catalan Elections / Plebiscite on Independence which it had called, and had waited and held back and decided to devote its energies to persuading other Catalans that independence was the right thing, while continuing to seek a referendum from Madrid, you would be in a very strong position right now, wouldn’t you?

            The Catalan independence movement could have turned every Catalan Election into a plebiscite on independence, every four years, until you got 55% or 60% of Catalans behind you, and the Spanish Constitutional Court would not have been able to do anything about it….

            But Artur Mas and Carles Puigdemont didn’t do that….You got 47% or 48% of pro independence votes in the September elections of 2015 and, despite not having a majority of votes, used the one extra seat you had in the Catalan parliament to pass a whole raft of laws which were unconstitutional, against the wishes of the majority of Catalans, which effectuated a “disconnection” from Spain…. thereby violating the very principle you claim to uphold, which is the principle of democratic consent…

            The famous referendum of October 2017 wasn’t even in the manifesto, it wasn’t part of the original plans of Junts Pel Si, which was to pass legislation “disconnecting” Catalonia from Spain in 18 months…

            The referendum was yet another improvisation from an independence leadership who are just complete amateurs and basically were making it all up as they went along, right up to and including the “declaration of the Republic”…..

            … it’s all vert frivolous, undemocratic and narcissistic…. and in any case, does not resemble the serious politics which the Scottish National Party are in the business of upholding…

        2. Douglas says:

          PS: One thing in these Papers which is true I am afraid is that some Scottish people are indeed extremely gullible about Catalonia and what has been going on there – the editors of Bella Caledonia among them…

          Let’s be clear: there is a full scale propaganda war underway at the moment between the Spanish State and the Catalan State, and both sides lie all the time, more or less every single day….. it’s all very pathetic and irritating, and for any democrat, extremely disconcerting in fact.. people in Scotland ought to be sceptical of both sides I’m afraid, they both have TV stations and newspapers at their beck and call and are trying to win over the international community to their side, and Scotland is the Catalans first port of call…

          So somebody like George Kerevan from these pages, for example, in his book with Chris Bambery “Catalonia Reborn” suggests that the corruption cases involving the Ciu, the predecessor party of Puigdemont’s PdeCat, which was taking 3% on all public works while running Catalonia for 25 years, is also the fault of the corrupt Spanish State , so that the pure, and democratic Catalans have been led astray by big nasty corrupt Madrid… it’s a laughable idea,. Jordi Pujol is one of the most corrupt European politicians of our time bar none…and he’s still walking about Barcelona… how is that possible?

          George and Chris, who don’t seem to speak Catalan or Spanish, obviously don’t know anything at all about Mediterranean or South European culture I’m afraid, where corruption is much more common than in the north of Europe.

          Socrates, the former socialist president of Portugal was jailed for corruption recently, everybody knows about Italian corruption because of the mafia, and we all learned recently with the Greek crisis that the Greeks don’t pay their taxes. Why do they not pay their taxes? No, not because the Greeks are dishonest people, but because they completely distrust the Greek State which also has a long history of corruption…

          So, you know, when somebody of George’s intelligence is prepared to explain away Catalan corruption with such a bizarre theory, it leads me to suspect that he has simply swallowed hook line and sinker a lie fabricated by the Catalan independence movement…. along with this bullshit about “emancipation” and the Catalans being “oppressed”, though you can always count on the Spanish Sate to overact and do something authoritarian – like sending 15,000 Guardia Civil to beat up little old Catalan ladies in response to an unofficial referendum – to give some if not a lot of credibility to those allegations..

          Long and short: we need to get a political process going between Madrid and Barcelona, and for that you need a Spanish government in Madrid…. as for Spain, it needs democratic renewal and a Second Transition…. but that will take some time and requires patience… a Podemos – PSOE government would be a start….

          1. Bu says:

            Seems like mr. Douglas (…) realy believes …
            Go to the Catalan Republic and find out first.
            The Iron curtain was supposed to be there forever, and it came down.
            “Patience my ass, we’re going to a stereo world”

          2. Marga says:

            Douglas, while agreeing with some of your views, I can’t let this one go: “Jordi Pujol is one of the most corrupt European politicians of our time bar none…and he’s still walking about Barcelona… how is that possible?”

            It seems to be possible because in 9 years of investigation the justice system, never remiss in bringing inconvenient politicians before a judge. has apparently not been able to prove enough against him, otherwise why would be still be free?

            Or maybe with his deep historical involvement in state affairs, he knows too much and they are hoping he disappears before he gets the chance to squeal. I have to say, neither of these alternatives shows the Spanish authorities in a very favourable light.

        3. Lorna Campbell says:

          You might want to rethink your statement that Slovenia’s independence sparked the Bosnian Crisis and subsequent war. Serbia invaded Slovenia and was chased out when the Austrians threatened to bomb them on Slovenia’s behalf, and then Germany recognized Slovenia’s independence, too. Serbia was always going to try and grab territory when Serbs were settled in all the other republics. Croatia followed suit after it, too, was invaded. Let’s get some thing right here. I agree that the UN should have stepped in as soon as the old Yugoslavia fell with Tito’s death and administered its disintegration and kept Serbia at bay.

        4. Marga says:

          Douglas, when you said that independence was declared with less than the “popular vote” I realised that we really do see things differently. The “popular vote”, as you put it, is an ambigious term and not one that helps any argument. It was declared on the back of a parliamentary majority, something Scots themselves have discussed.

          People voting in general elections on a range of issues promoted by different parties cannot be categorised on a single issue. That is not a measurable factor. You measure parliamentary representation by people voting. You measure popular opinion by a referendum.

          Apart from that, as Scottish and independentist myself, I can only wish you well and hope that the Catalans can manage to convince more fellow independentists that, in spite of errors, their movement deserves to be treated with respect and not subjected to abuse and repression, as described above.

          1. Douglas says:


            Even the CUP, the most radical wing of independence movement, said after the September 2015 elections that the plebiscite had been lost.

            In a plebiscite, you always count the votes, not the seats, that is precisely why it is a plebiscite… Using Catalan elections as a plebiscite is a perfectly legitimate tactic, recognized by any serious democrat, but then you have to obey the rules of that form of decision making, which Artur Mas did not. You can’t just rewrite the rules because it suits you.

            You can’t just constantly improvise.. which is what Mas and Puigdemont have done all the way along. Sorry, it’s just not serious politics and it seriously annoys me that Catalan supporters supporters of Mas and Puigdemont assume that just because people like myself support Scottish independence we or at least I go along with it. You talk of respect? Why should any democrat respect that?

            It’s not an incidental detail in this story, the result of the plebiscite, it’s absolutely central to why the Proces failed and why Puigdemont is going to spend the rest of his days sitting in hotel lobbies and waiting rooms, because nobody wants to receive him, he has flouted the fundamental principle of democratic consent.

            Using Catalan elections, every four years, for the next ten or twenty years was the obvious route for the parties who want Catalan independence…just because we had a referendum in Scotland, it doesn’t mean that was the route for Catalonia.

            If you had been patient, prudent and wise, right now in Spain you might have been able to get some real concession out of Madrid, because since the two party PSOE-PP system collapsed, it is almost impossible to form a government in Spain without the support of Catalan parties and Basque Parties. But right now, with all the bad blood in the air, in such a toxic atmosphere, Sanchez’s room for manouevere is much reduced.

            As for making a declaration of UDI and setting up a Republic as symbolic gesture or a negotiating strategy, that is just ridiculous, idiotic and amateurish… it is frivolous beyond belief. I would also say it is disrespectful of Catalan voters, and Catalonia’s ancient institutions, and makes you look like fools, as Clara Pontasi herself has said if I am not mistaken…

            As for Jordi Pujol, well we know the Pujol family amassed a fortune in bank accounts in Andorra of tens of millions of Euros … it’s an open secret in Barcelona that the Pujol clan took a kickback on all public works…just like the PP in Madrid… Why is Pujol not in jail? Probably because he has dirt on some very powerful people in Spain, let’s just leave it at that…

            And the neo-liberal Artus Mas, his direct heir and successor, Pujol’s Nº2, converts to independence at the same time as the Pujol corruption scandal breaks..and leads Catalonia and Spain into chaos… well, well, well….what a coincidence that is…

            As for Spanish public life, well watching the news bulletin each night is kind of like watching The Sopranos, isn’t it? It’s a mafia soap opera… but the Spanish establishment don’t care, they just carry on as if nothing had happened….

            Spain’s standing in Europe has never been lower in 40 years, with its corrupt elite, its authoritarian State and servile intellectual class…. I expect its stock to fall lower before there is any democratic regeneration… but it’s up to Spanish people to change it, not outsiders like me.

  8. w.b. robertson says:

    Never mind…these are the people we Scots will be climbing into bed with when Indy arrives and we are welcomed by Spain back into the wonderful democratic EEC. Haud ma jeckit – some folks can hardly wait!

  9. Bob Gillespie says:

    Great stuff, Ben! A very revealing article, with a great deal of shocking information about a supposedly left-of-centre Spanish government.

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