We had one of those blows for Nicola Sturgeon again, in case you hadn’t noticed. Nicola receives more blows than a tin hut in a hurricane, but unlike the tin hut, she’s still standing. Esteban González Pons has figured in the pages of this blog before. He’s the spokesperson of the right wing Spanish party Partido Popular in the European Parliament, and in 2012 at the British Conservative party conference in Birmingham he met with Ruth Davidson and other Scots Tories to discuss creating a European wide alliance of right wing parties opposed to independence movements.
Following that meeting, he claimed that he was due to have a second meeting to further the proposal, due in Edinburgh in December that year, and he told the Spanish press that he’d be meeting again with Ruthie and other Scots Tories, as well as with representatives of the Labour party in Scotland. It’s safe to say that it’s news that Esteban González Pons is not a fan of Scottish independence in much the same way that it’s news that Ruth Davidson doesn’t want another independence referendum.
The pan-EU alliance is a bit of a bust these days, what with the Tories supporting Brexit and sailing the UK off into a red white and blue obscurity and the fond hope that Donald Trump won’t bully Britain but will pick on someone else. The Partido Popular is no longer disposed to do the Tories any favours, but they’re still keen on discouraging Scottish independence. The difference between Scottish independence and Catalan independence however, is that the Partido Popular know they can’t do much about the former apart from bluffing and threatening before the event. After Scottish independence actually happens through legal and constitutional processes, Spain will have no option but to accept it as a done deal. The EU knows that, and so does Esteban.
There’s been some more bluffing and threatening this week, as dutifully reported by a British Unionist press. Esteban has been mouthing off about Scotland again, and about Gibraltar. On Monday representatives of the government of Gibraltar and Fiona Hyslop, representing the Scottish government, were invited to address the EU parliament about Brexit so that MEPs could get to hear the opinions of two parts of the rapidly diminishing British Empire which are opposed to Theresa May’s idiotic Brexit plans. Well I say “plans”, it’s more of a fond wish and an exercise in foot stomping. It was an opportunity for MEPs to hear the views of the Scottish and Gibraltarian parliaments, and for Scotland and Gibraltar to maintain some of those bridges to the rest of the continent that the Tories are trying to set fire to.
Surprisingly enough, Esteban wasn’t hugely pleased, and got into a bit of a strop because if the EU Parliament starts inviting representatives of Scotland and Gibraltar to voice their opinions, and indeed to acknowledge that they have a right to have opinions which are different from those of the British government, who knows where it might all end. It might end with the EU inviting representatives of the Catalan government to voice their opinions about how the Partido Popular in Madrid are behaving like reactionary anti-democratic authoritarians, and that would never do.
In fact that’s exactly what the EU had done the previous week, sending the carnaptious Esteban into canniptions. The Catalan President Carles Puigdemont had been asked to speak about a Catalan independence referendum. Esteban sent a ferocious letter to other MEPs demanding that they refuse to attend, and insisting that the meeting would have no more effect than having a bit of a conflab over a couple of copas de vino in a bar. His letter was ignored of course, and Esteban is still nursing the bruises from his rejection. So he decided to have a bit of a rant about Scotland and Gibraltar.
Still hurting from the previous week when his letter got a the same reception from the EU that a Syrian refugee gets from Donald Trump, Esteban got into a bit of a strop when Fiona Hyslop addressed the Constitutional Committee of the EU Parliament. “Brexit means Brexit, and therefore, if Scotland becomes independent it will have to put itself at the end of the queue,” he insisted, “behind Albania, Serbia, Montenegro or Turkey.” And again he repeated the line of the Spanish government that the EU can’t enter into discussions with sub-state entities like Scotland, but only with the British government.
This is one of those occasions when a politician prefers to talk about a fictitious scenario which isn’t likely to happen in the real world because the real world scenario is far less comfortable for them. He was of course speaking about a situation where Scotland becomes independent after the UK has left the EU, by which time Scotland, like the rest of the UK, will be outside the EU exactly like Albania or Serbia currently are. He said nothing at all about a Scotland that votes for independence before the UK has formally left the EU, when Scotland will still be an EU member, because he doesn’t want to acknowledge that this is a far more likely scenario and one in which very different rules will apply. The British Unionist media which reported his comments don’t want to acknowledge it’s a more likely scenario either. But the EU Parliament knows that it is. And so do supporters of Scottish independence.
Interestingly however, and this is a point that a British Unionist media ever eager to find something to blow Nicola Sturgeon with didn’t pick up on, Esteban didn’t say that the Spanish government would veto EU membership for an independent Scotland. So much for that Spanish veto threat then. Not even the spittle flecked Esteban could work up any enthusiasm for it. This is not unrelated to the fact that this particular so-called threat exists solely in the fevered imaginations of increasingly desperate British Unionist politicians and their supporters. Because, let’s face it, if you’re relying on Mariano Rajoy to be the saviour of the UK then the British gemme is already a bogey. No member of the Spanish government has ever said that they’d veto Scottish membership of the EU if Scotland attains its independence legally and constitutionally. It’s a testament to the persistent misinformation in the Unionist media that this still requires stating. And then they complain about fake news.
However for the British Unionist media this week, the news is that a Spanish MEP with known anti-independence views has made a statement in the EU parliament that can be construed as being unhelpful to Scottish independence, and not that that same Spanish MEP was slapped down by an exasperated Danuta Hübner, the president of the Constitutional Committee of the EU Parliament who made it clear to him that the rest of the parliament clearly did not share his views and that they found his tone unhelpful and disrepectful. In one report in the Spanish press, Hübner was reported as not hesitating to picar el crostó with him, which literally means “pick the crust”, or in more idiomatic English, “have a bone to pick”. It’s clear that the Spanish MEP was being slapped down and that he was the one who came off badly in the encounter, not Fiona Hyslop.
As the headline in the Spanish paper put it, El Parlamento Europeo da un toque a González Pons por ir contra Escocia y Gibraltar. Da un toque is a Spanish idiom meaning to allow a phone to ring out without answering it. In this context it implies that the EU was telling González Pons to pay attention but he wasn’t listening. The slap down for Scotland is reported in the Unionist press, but not the slap down for the man who made the comments. Here’s the link to the report in the Spanish press. http://www.elnacional.cat/es/politica/parlamento-europeo-gonzalez-pons-gibraltar-escocia_134718_102.html
That’s the British Unionist media and Spain for you, más cambia, más se vuelve la misma cosa. Which is Spanish for plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. They’re not about to pick up the phone to anything which they can’t spin as a blow for Nicola Sturgeon.
Audio version of this blog post, courtesy of Sarah Mackie @lumi_1984 https://soundcloud.com/occamshaver/wee-ginger-dug-31st-jan-2017
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