Nicola Sturgeon was handed a major boost today after Spain lifted a crucial roadblock to an independent Scotland re-joining the EU after Brexit.
Spanish foreign minister Alfonso Dastis said his country would not veto such a move – putting aside Spain’s longstanding opposition on the issue.
First Minister Ms Sturgeon has called for an independent Scotland to re-join the bloc so it can stay in the single market after a majority north of the border voted Remain last June.
Spain had previously signalled such a plan would be out of the question as it does not wish to give succour to separatists in the Catalonia region.
Indeed Madrid previously flatly rejected the suggestion Scotland could have a bespoke deal to remain in the single market despite the rest of the UK leaving.
But asked this week whether Spain would veto a Scottish application to re-join the EU, Mr Dastis said: “No, we wouldn’t.”
He added: “We don’t want it [Scottish independence] to happen. But if it happens legally and constitutionally, we would not block it.
“We don’t encourage the breakup of any member states, because we think the future goes in a different direction.”
But he said Scotland would have to go through the full application process to rejoin, which could take years.
The comments leave Ms Sturgeon open to argue Scotland could break away but retain its EU membership, thus satisfying those who wanted to stay in the bloc.
But recent polling in Scotland suggested a more complex task ahead for the SNP leader, who has demanded a fresh independence vote before the end of the Brexit negotiations.
A survey by NatCen found the majority of Scots want the same restrictions on migration as the rest of the UK ends up with after Brexit.