Madrid relieved at Scottish unionist win

Spanish prime minister releases video message expressing satisfaction over result of referendum

A Catalan pro-independence activist in Scotland.
A Catalan pro-independence activist in Scotland.P. OWEN (THE GUARDIAN)

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy sent out a video message on Friday morning welcoming the news that Scotland had voted against independence in Thursday’s referendum. In the recording, he stated that the British nation had voted “en masse, peacefully and with scrupulous respect for the legality of its country.” He continued saying that “we are all very happy that Scotland will continue to be with us,” given that its citizens have avoided “the serious economic, social, institutional and political consequences that its separation from the United Kingdom and Europe would have meant.”

Rajoy expressed his joy that the Scottish would continue contributing “to European cohesion,” and that they had opted for “security” in the face of risk, and integration in place of “segregation.” “We all need each other,” he continued, “and as Europeans we are happy that Scotland continues to be with us.”

News of Scotland’s no to independence comes on the same day as Catalonia’s parliament is getting ready to pass a bill enabling the northeastern Spanish region to hold its own referendum on self-rule.

Rajoy will convene an emergency Cabinet meeting this weekend

As such, Spain’s central government was breathing a collective sigh of relief over the result. The center-right Popular Party (PP), which strongly rejects the idea of independence for any Spanish region, feels that the Scottish refusal to secede from Britain will bolster its own position.

No official statements are expected until after the Cabinet meeting later on Friday, but government members could barely conceal their excitement at the news coming out of the UK. The secretary of state for the European Union, Iñigo Méndez de Vigo, said the unionist victory was good news “for all of us who have been working for decades to build Europe.”

Esteban González Pons, PP vice-secretary for study programs, said that Scotland is sending out the message that “this is the time for politics, dialogue and moderation, not for breakups and separations.”

He also noted that the Scottish referendum was held within the boundaries of the law, a reference to the fact that the Spanish government feels the Catalan referendum, scheduled for November 9, is illegal according to the country’s Constitution. As such, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is getting ready to appeal it in the Constitutional Court.

This could happen early next week if the Catalan parliament approves the regional bill unilaterally authorizing the popular plebiscite, a move that is expected this Friday. If so, Rajoy will convene an emergency Cabinet meeting this weekend to put the finishing touches on the appeal and send it to the State Council for fast-track review on Monday.

Pedro Sánchez, the leader of the Socialist Party, which also opposes Catalan independence, said that Scots have opted for “self-government” rather than “secession” because they will now be getting devolved powers from London.

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