Former UK Secretary of State for Scotland: “Were Catalonia to become an independent country, the world would recognise it”

In an interview with CNA, former United Kingdom’s Secretary of State for Scotland Michael Moore explained he saw no reason why the European Union would exclude any new state. However, David Cameron’s Minister highlighted that “it is for states and parts of states to resolve themselves politically and then the international community to respond to that decision”. The Liberal-Democrat politician added that it “is fundamental” to “recognise that this is a decision for the people in that country itself”. Moore asserted his belief in International Politics and in Democracy by referring to the upcoming Scottish Referendum for Independence.

Michael Moore, interviewed by the CNA (by M. Sales)
Michael Moore, interviewed by the CNA (by M. Sales) / ACN / Laura Pous / Manel Sales

ACN / Laura Pous / Manel Sales

October 23, 2013 10:11 PM

Barcelona (ACN).- “Were Catalonia to become an independent country, the world would recognise it” and “I know that”. Such were the words of Liberal-Democrat Michael Moore, the former UK’s Secretary of State for Scotland in David Cameron’s Government. Moore was also behind the agreement allowing for the Scottish Referendum for Independence, which will take place on the 18th of September 2014. In an interview with Catalan News Agency (ACN), Moore admitted that he “would be very surprised” if the independence of Catalonia “was not recognised internationally”. Nevertheless, he also stated it would be unwise to “jump ahead of the game”. The Liberal-Democrat politician highlighted that having “a political situation where the legalities are holding up the will of the people” was “difficult”, in a clear reference to the Spanish Government’s approach.

“I would say that Catalonia and Spain will need to think hard about this but in the end I think, were Catalonia to become an independent country, the world would recognise it”, “I know that”, argued Michael Moore. The former UK Scottish Secretary, strong advocate for the “no” option in next year’s referendum, believes that it is “premature and inappropriate for outsiders to speculate” on the United Kingdom’s position regarding the Catalan case but he observed that the International Community had traditionally recognised new states.

“I think the track record around the world is that a legitimately formed new country, South Sudan might have been a fairly recent example of that, gets international recognition” continued Moore. He argued that he “had seen how Europe had evolved over centuries and particularly over the last century” before asserting his belief in International politics: “If people in Catalonia decide that they are going to become an independent country, I’d be very surprised if that was not recognized internationally”, he repeated.

Moore avoided speculating on whether or not a unilateral Declaration of Independence from Catalonia would be considered “legitimate”, in case Spain denied its validity. “When it’s there in front of us, we’ll know what it looks like. The question will be about the process, about how the democratic decision has been taken, and how that is then enacted afterwards I think those are the critical parts to it”, explained the Former Scottish Secretary who believes that the “notion of legitimacy would keep university experts going for a very long time, working at what it means”.

Finding a legal framework was essential for the Scottish Referendum

Moore said the most challenging aspect about the Scottish Referendum was providing a legal framework. The former Secretary described conducting the referendum without the approval of London a “chaotic disaster".  had transferred powers to Edinburgh. Not to do so would have caused a number of complaints to the British High Court against the referendum and Moore was not prepared to tolerate it.

“I studied the situation in Catalonia and Spain very carefully and it is fascinating to watch what has happened” stated Moore when he was asked about the debate on a Catalan Referendum. According to him, “in the end, the politics and the legal decision have to be married”. “To have a situation where you have a legal impediment to a legitimate outcome is unacceptable but to have a political situation where the legalities are holding up the will of the people that is also difficult”, he added.

 “It is not for me to tell my friends in Catalonia or Spain how they should work their way through this but I’m encouraged to see that people do talk, they want to find a political settlement” said Moore, emphasising that “people are very patient and they have to be”. “In the United Kingdom, in Scotland, we knew that the mandate [to organize the referendum] existed, and we, as democrats, wanted to honour that”, added Moore who believes the most important matter is to discuss the independence, and not legal issues.

Moore refused to make direct comparisons between Scotland and Catalonia

The Liberal-Democrat did not wish to make direct comparisons between Catalonia and Scotland since “each country has its own circumstances” but he admitted that Scotland may have had an advantage over Catalonia, as “the nature of the United Kingdom is different to the nature of Catalonia and its relationship with Spain”. “We also have a different constitutional arrangement in terms of the way the law is decided” indicated Moore. He also explained that the Edinburgh Agreement he was responsible for could be regarded “as an example” but he “was weary of suggesting this was a model for others to copy”.

When he was asked whether Spain would be “annoyed” by London’s decision to allow a referendum in Scotland, Moore laughed and said they could learn from it. According to him, the importance of the Edinburgh Agreement was a victory for Democracy: “we have shown that we can peacefully and politically resolve a very tricky constitutional issue, and ultimately we have allowed people to decide” he explained.

“I understand the desire of people in Catalonia to be an independent state and it looks to me like the case has been made very vigorously, but ultimately we need to sort these things out within our own countries” explained Moore who strongly believes that the other European Union Member States should not intervene. “This is for states and parts of states to resolve themselves politically and then the international community to respond to that decision”, it is “fundamental” not to intervene in the internal affairs of another country.

Moore said that the politicians’ main task was to work at “the resolution of competing interests while respecting the will of people along the way. In Catalonia or in Spain, one route may be taken; it may not be clear what that route is to be. But a year and a half ago, two years ago, it wasn’t clear how we would resolve this in the United Kingdom.” Moore expressed his “optimism” that “political processes could work even if you got very different propositions”.

“Not clear” if an independent Scotland would have to leave the EU

Michael Moore insisted that he saw “no reason to believe that any country around Europe would have an in-principal objection to any new Member State coming forward and I don’t mean Scotland as I mean anywhere in the European Union”. He added that “the EU had a proud record in Europe in recent times of expanding its borders and including people in”. For the Liberal Democrat, the difficulties encountered during the negotiation and ratification process to include a new member in the European Union are not well defined. And it is still unclear whether an independent Scotland would temporarily exit the European Union.