In the UK, the issue of Scottish independence has again become topical, as the Scottish National Party (SNP) have recently published a draft referendum bill (on the 20th of October 2016).

One difficulty that is often cited with regard to an independent Scotland being part of the EU is that Spain would be opposed.

There are two ways in which it is imagined that Scotland might be in the EU after voting for independence:

i) Scotland seeks some bespoke arrangement to retain membership of the EU in the case in which it manages to become independent before the UK leaves the EU. Or,

ii) Scotland leaves the EU while it remains a constituent part of the UK and then becomes independent. Upon becoming independent it applies for membership of the EU.

It is suggested that in either of these scenarios, Spain may veto Scotland's bid to be in (or remain part of) the EU.

It is thought that the Spanish government would be opposed to allowing any region of another EU country gaining independence and gaining membership - as this would encourage separatist tendencies within its own borders.

That, certainly, appears to be the position of the conservative Spanish People's Party (PP).

As far as I am aware, other Spanish parties do not have an official position on Scotland joining the EU.

If the PP held a governing majority in Spain that might be the end of the matter (forgetting about any scenarios in which the PP might be induced to change their position).

But the PP do not hold a governing majority in Spain.

As things stand, members of the Socialist party in Spain (PSOE) are deciding whether to abstain and allow the PP to form a minority administration or to continue to block the PP, forcing new elections.

If we imagine that the PP is able to form a minority government, how might their attempt to prevent Scotland joining the EU work in practice?

Would they need the support of other parties to prevent Scotland joining or could they do it unilaterally?


1 Answer 1


A government of the Popular Party could, even if it is in minority.

Once a government is elected, executive power is at its hands. Its executive decisions do not need the support of the MP who gave its approval (or abstention) to the appointment of the government.

The only option for these MP, if they become really pissed with the government, is to try to pass a motion of no confidence (in Spanish, moción de censura) and dismiss the government, including the President of the Government (equivalent to a Prime Minister). This is specially difficult in Spain, because such a motion needs not only that a majority of MPs agree that they don't like the current government, but they must also agree in who would be the new President.

Until a change of government (due to the motion of no confidence) happens, the currently elected government is the one with veto option.

Additionally, and due to Spanish internal policies, the Popular Party is not the only one who would be contrary to recognition of countries unilaterally seceding. I would bet most of the PSOE would side with it in its issue, as would Ciudadanos, so the fact that the PP does not hold a majority of MPs would not affect this issue.

To illustrate the point, Spain is one of the few EU countries that still has not recognized Kosovo independence.

As a side note, another country that could have issues with Scotland independence and veto its entry in the EU could be France.

UPDATE: After reading again the question1, I want to do a very important CAVEAT. The part about the position of each party refers only to the event of an unilateral declaration of independence from Scotland. That is the scenario in which most Spanish political parties would veto Scotland entry in the EU, because of the risk of setting a precedent for Spain own breakaway movements.

In the case of a mutually (UK - Scotland) agreed independence, I do not know of any Spanish political party having issues with an independent Scotland joining the EU. In the days of the Scottish referendum there was no objection to Scotland joining the EU again. To further illustrate the issue, Spain recognizes as independent countries Timor Leste (East Timor) and South Sudan, which got their independence with the approval of the country they belonged to.

1 I know, I should have be more careful the first time.

  • Good example viz. Kosovo. It seems crazy to me but it gives an indication of what Scotland might be up against. Worth noting that it was the PSOE, not the PP, that blocked recognition of Kosovo (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…). Do you know if other parties have an official position on Scotland joining the EU? Since Spain is not planning on leaving the EU any time soon, the parallels with Scotland's situation are tenuous to say the least! And many in Spain would benefit from another anglophone EU country. Oct 22, 2016 at 15:48
  • Thanks for your answer and update. So, if I understand you correctly, whoever happens to be president in Spain would have an effective veto over Scotland's entry to the EU, regardless of whether or not they command a parliamentary majority. That sounds plausible - but I'd like some more detail! In the case in which the PP is a minority government and does not want to grant Scotland entry, but let's say the other parties do, what would happen in practice? Oct 23, 2016 at 14:00
  • ...Would Rajoy (if he is still president) simply state his position on behalf of Spain and that's the end of the matter - without it having to go through Spanish parliament? What is the EU process for issuing a veto in this circumstance? Is it an action (Spain declaring that it opposes Scotland's membership) or an omission (all EU27 countries having to agree to Scotland's membership and Spain withholding consent)? Oct 23, 2016 at 14:00
  • Check en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enlargement_of_the_European_Union#Process. What matters is the Council decission, which is formed by Heads of State/Government. Usually each member stance is publicly known and negotiated before, but it is decided only by him/her. And the idea that the opposition parties, who have been completely unable to agree in almost anything to form a government for almost a year, will suddenly unite because of something as secondary as Scotland membership to launch a motion of no confidence... well, that is no longer political-fiction but political-LSD-hallucination.
    – SJuan76
    Oct 23, 2016 at 17:37
  • Looks like Spain will have a minority PP government politica.elpais.com/politica/2016/10/23/actualidad/… (Spanish) - seems like it will be near impossible to get any controversial legislation passed since they would need total support from their own ministers plus Ciudadnos plus other parties. But that's a discussion for another thread! Oct 23, 2016 at 19:40

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