ALEX Salmond’s claim that Scotland would remain in the EU after independence has been dealt a blow by the leader of the movement to split Catalonia from Spain.
Catalan president Artur Mas acknowledged that independence for the region could mean exclusion from the EU, with the new state needing to re- negotiate European membership.
In an interview with the Italian newspaper La Repubblica Mas suggested that Catalonia would not be an automatic member of the bloc – as the First Minister has claimed Scotland would be in the event of a Yes vote in next year’s referendum.
“I have given thought to the idea that in the initial moment between the referendum and the proclamation of the independence we could remain outside of Europe,” Mas told the newspaper. “This would be a shame because we want to remain in the EU.
“We would need to find a transitional regime to avoid expulsion from the EU.”
As leader of the centre right Convergence and Union Party, Mas has, along with other parties, proposed an independence referendum for November next year, although the Spanish Government has said that holding such a poll would be illegal.
Last night Salmond’s opponents claimed that Mas’s comments blew another hole in the SNP’s claims that an independent Scotland would remain in the EU after independence
The Scottish Secretary, Alistair Carmichael, said: “I welcome the thoughtful position of Catalan president Artur Mas that if Catalonia were to leave Spain it would be out of the EU and have to re-apply for membership. That reflects the EU position and it reflects our legal advice.
“Surely now is the time for the First Minister to take his fingers out of his ears and listen to what Mas is saying, what Rajoy is saying, what Van Rompuy is saying and what Barroso is saying.”
Last month, the Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy said that an independent Scotland would have to reapply for EU membership. A similar view has been expressed by Herman Van Rompuy, the president of the European Commission, and EC President Jose Manuel Barroso.
The leader of the Scottish Conservatives Ruth Davidson said: “Alex Salmond has found himself completely isolated on Europe. Now even the nationalist president of Catalonia, who is leading his own drive for independence, says that leaving Spain means leaving the EU.
“Alex Salmond cannot keep saying everyone else is wrong and he is right. These realistic assessments are in stark contrast to Alex Salmond’s record of misleading Scots voters on the EU issue. If only Alex Salmond was as honest as his Catalan counterpart.”
But a spokeswoman for Nicola Sturgeon, the Deputy First Minister, said: “Better Together should make a New Year resolution to stop these silly scare stories. These reported comments are clearly and explicitly about the situation in Spain and Catalonia – not about Scotland, where the constitutional circumstances are very different, as enshrined in the Edinburgh Agreement.
“The Scottish Government has published a detailed process which will see Scotland negotiate its position as an independent member of the European Union from within, during the 18-month period between a Yes vote and independence day – a period when we will still be part of the EU as part of the UK, and a time-scale which has been described as ‘realistic’ by the UK Government’s own legal adviser.”