A tale of two flags – and a lesson in foreign policy

This is a story of two flags, and of political naivety.

I blogged a while ago about the SNP government’s conduct of a quasi-foreign policy when foreign affairs are not a devolved matter for the Scottish parliament. ‘Pushing at the boundaries’ I concluded. But what would you expect?

I discovered a photo today of First Minister Alex Salmond with a member of something called Catalans per la independència d’Escòcia. I don’t think the name of the group needs translation.


The interesting thing about this photo is that the flag being clutched is not the official flag of Catalonia.

It’s a version for people in Catalonia who want to be independent of Spain:

catalunya libre

Here’s the official Catalan flag:


All very arcane you might say. So you’re a vexillologist as well as a unionist? A double whammy.

The point – obviously – is that the SNP want an independent Scotland to be a member of the European Union. In a briefing paper on An Independent Scotland: The Road to Membership of the European Union, Professor Stephen Tierney and Dr Katie Boyle of Edinburgh University make it clear that

It is … likely that Scotland will require to make an application to join the European Union by way of the Article 49 of the Treaty of the European Union procedure and that, accordingly, the unanimous agreement of all Member States to any ratification agreement will be required.

It hardly needs stating that those member states include Spain, which is strongly opposed to the secession of Catalonia.

It’s as if the Catalan government president, Arturo Mas, were photographed smiling and clutching a Saltire with the word ‘Yes’ stencilled on it while expecting the UK government to nod through his application for EU membership. Not sensible.

It’s not a deal-breaker, but it sure isn’t going to make accession any easier. Where were the first minister’s minders when he smiled so approvingly at the ‘freedom for Catalonia’ flag?



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