An interesting article in Sunday’s Independent seems to have been missed by the rest of the media, which seems odd, given the increasing profile of the debate over the future of Scotland within or without the United Kingdom.
The article, which you can find here , posits that an Independent Scotland may not be admitted to the EU because Spain would veto any such move. It is not because the Spanish are particularly anti Scotland per se, but they are against any move that strengthens the hand of their own separatist movements; primarily, but not limited to, the Basque Region and Catalonia. A successful transition to independence within the EU by Scotland would severely undermine Spain’s ability to hold on to its own pro-secessionist regions.
Similar separatist movements in Italy, where the Northern League would dearly love to ditch the southern two thirds of Italy, and the Flemish areas of Belgium, who would quite like a divorce from their Walloon neighbours (and vice versa), could see other countries taking a close interest in the issue of Scottish Independence.
Those I have noted above are, I think, the most credible separatist movements within Europe, but there are many more active separatist groups. There are more countries with them than without, it seems, if Wikipedia can be trusted on this issue.
As I understand it, accession to the European Union requires that an application for membership be ratified by each member state. To me, that suggests that unanimity is required and there is a better than evens possibility that Spain would refuse to ratify a membership application from an independent Scotland (or indeed any other succession state from another member of the EU).
As members of the former Yugoslavia line up to join the EU, one such supplicant bears watching: Kosovo. When Yugoslavia collapsed, it fell apart into its constituent parts more or less bloodily, depending upon the local ethnic mix. Kosovo is different from the other successor states in that it was part of an independent Serbia both before and after the rise and fall of Yugoslavia. Kosovo is, I think, the only applicant that has claimed independence from a Yugoslav successor state as a result of its separatist agenda. The differentiation is a fine one, but it has been enough for Spain to withhold recognition of Kosovo’s independence where many other countries (including the USA)have granted such recognition, which means in turn that Spain is unlikely to ratify Kosovo’s accession into the EU in due course and that would be a strong indicator of how they might approach the Scottish question.
Given that membership of the EU is a stated aspiration – possibly even a prerequisite – for an independent Scotland as envisaged by the Scottish National Party, Spanish intransigent self interest could make independence desperately unattractive to the Scots.
Spain could be the instrument of survival for the United Kingdom. As one wag had it – and I truly wish I’d thought of this pun – they don’t like to keep all their Basques in one exit.