New blow to Scottish independence bid as Catalan leader admits secession from Spain could mean EU exclusion
The news from Spain may be explosive to Scottish nationalists' chances of winning the 2014 referendum on independence from Britain
In statements to a major European newspaper that could have an explosive impact on the debate about Scottish independence from Great Britain, the leader of Catalonia, a leading Spanish region with a powerful independence movement of its own, has openly acknowledged that seceding from Spain could mean exclusion from the European Union and the need to re-negotiate membership.
The remarks of Catalan President Artur Mas are certain to cause ripples in the Scottish debate because nationalists in Scotland, where a referendum is to be held in 2014, have dismissed as scaremongering the idea that Scotland would have to leave the EU and then attempt to rejoin -- a process which analysts say could take years. Catalan and Scottish separatists retain very close ties.
But on Friday, Mr. Mas told Italy's La Repubblica, one of the most influential newspapers in southern Europe:
"I have given thought to the idea that in the initial moment, between the referendum and the proclamation of independence, we could remain outside of Europe... This would be a shame because we want to remain in the EU."
Raising the stakes even further, the President of Catalonia told the Italian newspaper: "We would need to find a transitional regime to avoid expulsion from the EU. In any case, we would ask to be readmitted."
Catalonia wants to hold a referendum on independence from Spain next November (and polls show a "yes" vote could win) but Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has said he will try and stop it going ahead, while the 2014 referendum in Scotland is now certain.
In November, Mr Rajoy, fearful of setting any separatist precedents for his own country, broke with usual diplomatic protocol and openly warned Scotland that it would be excluded from the EU if it left Britain.
"I respect all the decisions taken by the British, but I know for sure that a region that would separate from a member state of the European Union would remain outside the European Union and that should be known by the Scots and the rest of the European citizens", he said.
After Scottish Nationalist (SNP) leader Alex Salmond, also Scotland's First Minister in Scotland's devolved regional government, had responded to widespread discussions of Mr. Rajoy's remarks as "scaremongering", the SNP's office in the Scottish city of Aberdeen told the BBC:
"...Scotland is a European nation and will become an independent European member state in March 2016, after we vote Yes next September."
However, one senior diplomat told The Commentator it may not be so easy since it requires complete unanimity among all 28 EU states to accept a new member. EU Countries such as Spain, Belgium, the UK, Slovakia and Romania with actual or potential secessionist movements could either veto Scottish or Catalan membership, or ensure that discussions dragged on for years without resolution.
Polls show a majority of Scots want to stay in Britain but only by a moderate margin, though nationalists believe they may experience a surge in support as the referendum draws nearer.
However, polls also show that if Scots believe leaving Britain would result in departure from the EU, the pro-independence side would be defeated by a crushing majority.
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