The Spanish government's ministry of foreign affairs has accused the Scottish government of misunderstanding the situation in Catalonia after a Scottish minister backed the community's right to hold an independence referendum.
The Scottish government's minister for external affairs, Fiona Hyslop, said on Saturday that Catalonia should be able to "choose the form of government best suited to their needs" and suggested that the Spanish government follows the example of the Scottish independence referendum in 2014.
However, a spokesperson for Spain's ministry of foreign affairs told BuzzFeed News it was impossible for the country to follow the Scottish example under its constitution, and a spokesperson for the Spanish parliament's foreign affairs committee said the Scottish government "totally" misunderstood Spanish law.
The Spanish government is attempting to prevent a referendum on Catalan independence from taking place on 1 October, and the Spanish Constitutional Court has blocked Catalonia's referendum law while it considers if such a vote would be illegal under the Spanish constitution.
"Spain cannot apply the United Kingdom’s solution for the Scottish issue: our historical origins and our legal-political systems are different," said a spokesperson for Spain's ministry of foreign affairs. "Spain has a written constitution, submitted to the vote of all Spaniards in 1978 and approved by 87.7% (and 91.4% of the Catalonian voters), which makes the rules of the game clear.
"The Spanish constitution enshrines the Spanish nation as a political and social reality prior to the constitution itself. Therefore, national unity is the basis of our constitution. There are established procedures to amend the constitution. Therefore, in our legal framework, a referendum in the form proposed by the United Kingdom to Scotland would only be possible if the constitution were amended.
"The British case is an exception to an overwhelming majority of written constitutions that do not recognise this possibility. Recent judicial decisions in Germany and Italy have underlined the same constitutional approach as Spain. More concretely, according to Germany’s Supreme Court 'there is no room under the constitution for individual states to attempt to secede'."
The Scottish government's statement suggested that Catalonia's right to self-determination was "enshrined in the United Nations charter" – the set of rules each member of the UN signs up to – but the spokesperson said Hyslop had misunderstood that section of the charter.
"Concerning the right of self-determination of peoples contained in the UN Charter (art 2) and developed by resolutions 2625 (XXV) and 1514 (XV), it is limited to the process of decolonization," they said. "Apart from this context, it can only be argued in cases of peoples annexed by conquest, foreign domination or occupation, and peoples oppressed by massive and flagrant violation of their rights."
Fernando Maura, Spanish MP and a spokesperson for the Spanish parliament's foreign affairs committee, also told BuzzFeed News that the situations in Scotland and Catalonia are different and that Hyslop's suggestions "totally" misunderstood Spanish constitutional law.
"These two issues – Catalonia and Scotland – are completely different," Maura told BuzzFeed News. "In the Catalonian case the self-determination right is not allowed by the Spanish constitution; this right only can be exercised by the whole integrity of the Spanish people, according to the Constitutional Court."
He added: "I don't know if this statement is made as a fair approach or as an interest to meddling unnecessarily in a very different debate than the Scottish. You must ask this question to the Scottish government."
Asked if the Scottish government's statement was an unhelpful misunderstanding of the Catalonian situation, Maura replied: "Totally."
Spanish MEP Javier Nart, a member of the European Parliament's foreign affairs committee, told BuzzFeed News: "The Scottish government's statements are definitely unfair, placing the situation of both countries on the same plane in relation to this serious matter. Besides being very different historical circumstances, the Scottish leaders have always kept the debate within the legal order established in that country, something that is not happening in Catalonia.
"The secessionist leaders have never agreed to raise their grievances in the National Parliament, as the Scots did, and now they claim to be victims of the lack of dialogue and debate when, in reality, they want us to obey their illegal grievances outside the Spanish constitutional order."
A spokesperson for the Scottish government said it stood by Hyslop's statement.
Jamie Ross is a Scotland reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Edinburgh.
Contact Jamie Ross at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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