SCOTLAND'S PAPERS

Spain’s Gov gave orders to "keep an eye on" the Basque Nationalist Party in Scotland: “We are very wary of them”

Mr. Borrell’s Chief of Staff gave order to the Spanish Consul in Edinburgh to follow closely the activities of the Basque nationalists. Spain’s Foreign Office learnt that the Basque Government was preparing behind their backs a memorandum alongside Ms. Sturgeon’s Administration

Spain’s Gov gave orders to "keep an eye on" the Basque Nationalist Party in Scotland: “We are very wary of them”
Spain’s Gov gave orders to "keep an eye on" the Basque Nationalist Party in Scotland: “We are very wary of them”

Spain’s Foreign Office gave order to the former Spanish Consul in Edinburgh, Mr. Miguel Angel Vecino, to keep an eye on the activities of the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) in Scotland as long as he was appointed. At least that is what Mr. Vecino states in the lawsuit he filed against the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs following its dismissal last June, to which Vozpopuli has gained access through judicial sources.

Mr. Camilo Villarino, Mr. Borrell’s Chief of Staff, was the one commissioned to give such instructions to Mr. Vecino over lunch a year ago in a small restaurant in Madrid’s Plaza Mayor. The order was clear: he was supposed to watch closely anything that had to do with PNV’s activities in Scotland. “We have grown to be very wary of them”, Mr. Villarino said to the newly appointed Spanish Consul in Edinburgh.

“We did not receive a lot of information about that party, but we knew that they were quite active in Scotland”, Mr. Vecino states in his lawsuit. “However, the situation was not the same as the one regarding the Catalan independence supporters. That is why we only had to keep an eye on them and report about their activities in British soil”, he added.

The existing mistrust between Spain’s Foreign Office and the Basque Government is due to their lack of communication regarding the Basque Country’s foreign policies. For instance, the Spanish Consul learnt from the Scottish authorities that there had been a visit from some Basque MPs to Edinburgh.

Message from the consul to his superiors in Madrid after a visit by Basque parliamentarians to Scotland.
Message from the consul to his superiors in Madrid after a visit by Basque parliamentarians to Scotland.

The visit was focused on cultural matters and the Basque delegation snatched the opportunity to Edinburgh to deliver several books about the “Basque people” written in English, Spanish and Basque language. Mr. Vecino then stated to Mr. Borrell’s Department that his contacts in Ms. Sturgeon’s Government had guaranteed him that the Basque delegation “only made small talk and spoke about cultural exchanges”.

Ms. Artolazabal's trip to Scotland 

However, there was another visit from the Basque delegation that was far more difficult. The Basque Counselor of Employment and Social Affairs, Ms. Beatriz Artolazabal, visited Edinburgh on the 19th and the 20th of June. This time, Mr. Borrell’s Office had no clue about that trip being organized until the 23rd of May, when the Scottish Government told via e-mail to the Spanish Consul.

Consul mail after being informed of the organization of an official visit of the Basque Government.
Consul mail after being informed of the organization of an official visit of the Basque Government.

Ms. Artolazabal’s visit to Edinburgh caught the Spanish Government off guard since Mr. Borrell’s Chief of Staff had to ask the Technical Secretariat of the Foreign Office if the Basque Government had informed Madrid about this “business trip” to Scotland. The result of this inquiry is still unknown.

Response of the chief of staff of Borrell upon learning of the initiative of the Basque Government.
Response of the chief of staff of Borrell upon learning of the initiative of the Basque Government.

In that sense, the Scottish authorities informed Mr. Vecino that a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was being drafted between Ms. Sturgeon and Mr. Iñigo Urkullu, the president of the Basque Government. In those documents, Ms. Sturgeon expressed her intentions of “keep cooperating” with the Basque authorities. The Basque Country had already signed another MoU with Wales, and Mr. Urkullu had offered Ms. Sturgeon a bilateral agreement that would include “several areas of cooperation”.

Ms. Artolazabal’s visit to Edinburgh in a few weeks was about to allow Basque authorities the submission of a draft of this MoU to the Scottish Government.

Informe en el que se desvela que el País Vasco quiere un memorándum con Escocia by Vozpopuli on Scribd

Mr. Borrell’s Chief of Staff soon realized what the Basque Government was trying to achieve with its MoU with the Scottish authorities. “They should have informed us about this MoU they were drafting", he stated in an e-mail sent to Mr. Vecino.

Ms. Artolazabal's visit to Edinburgh took place at mid June, according to schedule. At that point, Mr. Vecino had already been dismissed as the Spanish Consul in Scotland, so the documents included in the lawsuit he filed against Spain's Foreign Office do not provide further information on that issue.

The Basque Counselor of Employment and Social Affairs met during her visit Mr. Derek MacKay, the Finance Secretary of Scotland, and Mr. Jamie Hepburn, Minister for Business, Fair Work and Skills. During the rendezvous, they talked about youth employment, equality and employment of persons with disabilities in public administration. In the press releases that followed that meeting, there was no mention whatsoever to the MoU.

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