SCOTLAND'S PAPERS

Spain's Gov tried to get London to forbid the association of consuls in Scotland

Borrell's team urged Britain's Foreign Office to overturn the initiative of Sturgeon's nationalist Government so that it would not become a precedent for Catalonia.

El primer ministro británico Boris Johnson.
El primer ministro británico Boris Johnson. EFE

The initiative of the Scottish Government to create a consular body for the entire territory of Scotland provoked a diplomatic crisis with Spain last April, when Ms. Sturgeon learnt that the Foreign Office had been persuaded from Madrid to ban this association for fear that it would become a precedent for Catalonia.

Until then, there were two consular bodies - the one in Edinburgh/Leith and the one in Glasgow- that had no relationship between them. In February, the Sturgeon Executive invited all the consuls accredited in Scottish territory and proposed a "unification" of both associations into one, as explained by the Spanish Consul in Edinburgh, Mr. Miguel Ángel Vecino, in several official e-mails to which Vozpópuli had gained access.

"Definitively surprising"

The Spanish representative alerted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 21st April of Ms. Sturgeon's plans, just when the Brexit negotiation was experiencing one of its most tense moments. "This sudden increase in tension and political activity in Scotland is definitively surprising," Mr. Vecino wrote.

"I have consulted several colleagues who have been living here for many years. All of them without exception have told me that never before had they seen so much consular activity and so many projects regarding this issue in the Government of Ms.Sturgeon", he added.

This event caused nervousness in Madrid. Mr. Josep Borrell's Chief of Staff, the diplomat Mr. Camilo Villarino, warned the Spanish Consul in Edinburgh that Mr. Quim Torra's Generalitat had already tried out the same strategy with the consuls appointed in Catalonia. "The establishment of a similar consular body in Barcelona has been one of the key instruments used by the Catalan Government to win over foreign consuls and honorary consuls in Catalonia," Mr. Villarino noted.

The following day, Mr. José María Fernández López de Turiso, Minister-Counsellor of the Spanish Embassy in London, called the Foreign Office to inform them. The British diplomatic team showed "absolute surprise" since they were completely unaware of this initiative.

El 'número dos' de la Embajada española en Londres informa de sus gestiones ante el Foreign Office.
El 'número dos' de la Embajada española en Londres informa de sus gestiones ante el Foreign Office.

That move soon reached the ears of Ms. Sturgeon's Executive. Frank Strang, the Head of Scotland’s European Affairs, told then the Spanish Consul in Edinburgh that London had contacted them to ask what was going on. The Foreign Office had telephoned the Scottish Ministry of Foreign Affairs because "the Spanish embassy had contacted them, worried about this association". They also "wanted to know if the Foreign Office was going to forbid it", according to Mr. Vecino.

Strang conveyed to the Spanish Consul his "surprise" at the aforementioned "concern of the Spanish Embassy" and said he did not understand why they had done such a thing. "I replied that it was only a question, and I did not believe that there was any real concern from Spain's Government about the alleged prohibition of the consular association", Mr. Vecino said. He supposedly replied that to Mr. Lang to get out of trouble.

Vecino traslada el malestar escocés con el Gobierno español.
Vecino traslada el malestar escocés con el Gobierno español.

The Spanish embassy drafted a telegram about the incident that was sent to Madrid at the beginning of May (see below). On it, Mr. Fernández López de Turiso recounted what steps had been taken and how he had explained to the Foreign Office the situation "from our point of view and taking into account the experience we had with foreign consuls in Catalonia".

"The parallelism between Catalonia and Scotland, regarding the creation of a foreign consular body for internal political reasons, was very revealing to the Foreign Office," the document noted.

London was "very interested" in knowing whether Ms. Sturgeon's Government was formally behind the initiative or was participating in it institutionally. "It seems that, at least formally, this is not the case; although everything suggests that it has been welcomed by the Scottish Government," concluded Mr. Fernández López de Turiso.

Informe revelado en los Papeles de Escocia. by Vozpopuli on Scribd

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