SCOTLAND'S PAPERS

"Ignorant, distant and cold": such is Spain's diplomacy opinion on Ms. Sturgeon

The emails exchanged between several Spanish diplomats describe Ms. Sturgeon as "devoid of empathy". Mr. Borrell's team also stressed that the independence of Scotland "would open a Pandora's box in Europe with unforeseeable consequences"

"Ignorant, distant and cold": such is Spain's diplomacy opinion on Ms. Sturgeon
"Ignorant, distant and cold": such is Spain's diplomacy opinion on Ms. Sturgeon

The e-mails about Scotland exchanged between several Spanish diplomats, to which Vozpópuli has gained access through judicial sources, shed a very unflattering light on the Scottish First Minister, Ms. Nicola Sturgeon. According to the Spanish Consul in Edinburgh, Mr. Miguel Angel Vecino, the leader of the SNP is "very distant, cold and lacking in empathy". The diplomat also compares Ms. Sturgeon to Mr. Quim Torra, the President of Catalonia's Government: "Ms. Sturgeon is more polite than President Torra", stressed Mr. Josep Borrell's main advisor and Chef de Cabinet, Mr. Camino Villarino.

Shortly after the arrival of Mr. Vecino in Edinburgh in November last year, there was a "change of attitude" of Ms. Sturgeon's nationalist government regarding the Spanish Executive of Pedro Sánchez. One of the main reasons behind this political shift was Mr. Borrell's statements in Politico, where he claimed that he did not oppose the entry into the EU of an independent Scotland.

At least that is how Mr. Vecino felt about the situation. However, when confiding in Mr. Borrell's main advisor, Mr. Villarino warned him: "We must tread carefully. We do not want the Scottish nationalists and the London government to think that we look favourably on Scotland's independence. Because that is not the case. It would open a Pandora's box in Europe with unforeseeable consequences. Be cautious", Mr. Villarino told the Spanish Consul in Edinburgh.

Advertencia del jefe de Gabinete de Borrell al cónsul español.
Advertencia del jefe de Gabinete de Borrell al cónsul español.

A month later, Ms. Sturgeon met with the Spanish Consul in the office of the Scottish First Minister. Mr. Vecino described her in the following terms: "She is someone very distant and cold, who rarely shows any emotion on her face. She only made a gesture twice, so she seems to suffer from a lack of empathy". 

In the opinion of the diplomat, Sturgeon "has deep convictions and more than pragmatic she is opportunistic". Moreover, her "ignorance" of the international scene is "shocking" for a political leader for a political leader aiming to bring about the Independence of her territory. "I really think it is not so much a problem of ignorance, but mainly a case of sheer disinterest", Mr. Vecino said.

Jorge Romeu (arriba), Camilo Villarino y José Mª Fdez. López de Turiso.
Jorge Romeu (arriba), Camilo Villarino y José Mª Fdez. López de Turiso.

The Cabinet Secretary for Government Business and Constitutional Relations of the Scottish Government, Michael Russell, also appears in the Spanish diplomatic mails and he is not portrayed nicely. "Personal friend of Ms.Sturgeon, he is the toughest of all the Scottish Cabinet members and a hard pro-independence supporter", summed up the Consul after meeting with him and realizing that he was not interested in Catalan issues. "Five minutes into the conversation he interrupted me saying 'Ah, I see that everything is settled in Catalonia. I'm very happy'", Mr. Vecino recounted.

The very next day, Mr. Vecino and Mr. Russell run into each other at a reception to celebrate the Irish national holiday. The Scottish leader then approached the Spanish Consul and he suggested they should have lunch together. "He wanted to talk about Spain, a country he adores. That's the way things are", stressed the Spanish diplomat.

The same "ideas" in Sturgeon and Torra

At the end of April, a few days before Spain's General Election, Ms. Sturgeon decided to make a risky bet and proposed a second independence referendum before May 2021. "The choice will be between Brexit and the future of Scotland as an independent European nation," Scotland's First Minister said during a speech on the Scottish Parliament.

Those comments troubled Spain's Foreign Office. "Except for the -not inconsiderable- difference that Ms. Sturgeon is more educated, these statements could have been made by President Torra. The ideas and the arguments are the same," Mr. Borrell's Chief of Staff said.

Comentario del jefe de Gabinete de Borrell sobre Sturgeon y Torra.
Comentario del jefe de Gabinete de Borrell sobre Sturgeon y Torra.

Villarino himself instructed the Consul about the matter. "Don't ever forget that our bid is on the United Kingdom, not on Scotland, even though the British Government is not going through its best times". A point of view with which Mr. Vecino seemed uncomfortable. "In my opinion, we should not bet on anything because it just is not our problem," the Spanish Consul in Edinburgh stressed.

"Our job is to observe, to inform and to sit in the front row in order to influence as much as possible in our favour, but in no means should we opt for one or the other. The problem of independence is an Internal issue within the United Kingdom and I believe that we should not even have a say in it," continued Mr. Vecino.

From the diplomat's point of view, "the shadow of Catalonia and the independence conflicts are more in our imagination than on the horizon of what is happening here," he stated, referring to Scotland. "What weighs heavily, and it is costing me a lot of work and many trips to remedy it, is the absolute absence of Spain in previous years," he then complained.

"Episodes of secession in Europe"

Mr. Vecino's comments were soon replied from Borrell's Chief of Staff, who stressed that the bid on the United Kingdom did not mean interference in Britain's affairs, as the Consul proposed. "It is simply the expression of a foreign policy preference. I don't think Europe, or Spain, is interested in seeing new episodes of secession attempts on the continent," Mr. Villarino said before adding that, "as long as it is done through legal ways, it will be what the British as a whole want it to be".

The day after this message exchange, Mr. Borrell's 'right hand' sent an "remark" to the Spanish Consul in Edinburgh. "It is preferable that you do not use the expression 'Minister of Foreign Affairs' to speak of the person responsible for foreign affairs in the Scottish Government", Mr. Villarino told him.

Following this semantic discussion, Mr. Borrell's advisor for Catalonia, Mr. Jorge Romeu, said that the Scottish issue had nothing to do with the Catalan issue. "The British government's abuse of Brexit amply justifies the tremendous Scottish anger," the diplomat stressed.

"There is no victimization of the Scots, but a real grievance. The curious thing is that, as I found out through my contacts here in Madrid with the UK Embassy, I have the impression that the British Government is still not fully aware of the seriousness of the matter," Mr. Romeu concluded, censuring London's behaviour.

Correo del asesor para asuntos catalanes de Borrell en el que critica a Reino Unido.
Correo del asesor para asuntos catalanes de Borrell en el que critica a Reino Unido.

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