30 April 2017

Caledonia and Catalonia

There were 11 posts here between 2012 and 2015 labelled “Scottish Independence”, a subject of interest to this blog because it might have led to the relocation to South West England of at least part of the Royal Navy (the deterrent submarine force). Now, 30 months after the decisive No vote of September 2014, the independence issue has been revivified by Brexit and “Scotland being taken out of the EU against our will”, although apparently with no mention by the SNP so far of the nuclear weapons issue.

In 2015, before the EU Referendum, I pointed out that the departure of Scotland (Caledonia to the Romans and the poetically inclined) wouldn’t be such a disaster for what would remain of the UK (Not so Little England) as some Remainers were suggesting. But whether the arrival of Scotland would be welcomed with open arms by some of the remaining 27 EU member countries is another matter, particularly for the Spanish, as this except from a BBC Scotland article by Nick Eardley on 10 March suggested:

What of the Spanish problem?

The SNP's Europe Spokesman was in Madrid earlier this week. He's been one of the party figures travelling around Europe trying to drum up support for Scotland remaining a key player, in spite of Brexit. He says the SNP will remain neutral on Catalonia - arguing the case of the want away Spanish region is different from Scotland. Some will interpret that as a way of trying to make Scottish independence - with full EU membership - more palatable to Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

Esetban Pons MEP is vice chair for Mr Rajoy's People's Party in the European Parliament. He told me: "If Scotland in the future wants to come back they have to begin the procedure as any other country." 

But, I asked him, would Spain try and veto Scotland re-entering? 

"No because if you are thinking about Catalonia the situation is very very very different to the Scottish situation."

So what constitutes different? The first table below compares the UK and Spain and Scotland and Catalonia and also the impact of the latter pair’s removal on the former pair. The major loss would be Spain’s in terms of population and the economy whereas for the UK it would be more significant in terms of physical area.

The next tables show the impact on the UK and Spain for area and population relative to the other EU countries (the UK will be in the EU until 2019 at least) of these losses and where Scotland and Catalonia would enter.

The final table shows the impact in GDP terms. Five countries out of 28 (Germany, France, UK, Netherlands and Italy) provide nearly 90% of the EU budget. Another five countries are the source of the rest.

However, there is one highly significant difference between Scotland and Catalonia. UK public expenditure  per head in England is lower than in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland, in effect a transfer of resources (currently around £9 billion in the case of Scotland) which has the effect of reducing differences in living standards. By contrast, Catalonia was sending a similar amount to the central Spanish treasury in 2011. Perhaps not so surprising then that there is a continuing majority in Scotland against independence, even post-Brexit, nor that the opposite is the case in Catalonia!

But perhaps a more intriguing aspect of post-Brexit Spanish-UK relations than Scotland vs Catalonia is Catalonia vs Gibraltar. The latter both owe their present status to the Treaty of Utrecht of 1713, as this article from the Guardian in 1977 (recently tweeted by @dentard) reveals:

All statistics from Wikipedia unless otherwise indicated.

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