WITH Nicola Sturgeon on a charm offensive in Brussels this week, there’s been a fair bit of crowing from the usual suspects over the past couple of days that Scotland will be given short shrift by the EU and will be vetoed by Spain. It’s indyref groundhog day.

I lived in Spain for almost two decades, am fluent in Spanish and speak passable Catalan. The dug is a Spanish mutt, found abandoned and starving by an irrigation canal near the Valencian town of Elche. He’s a bilingual dog, and is disobedient in two languages which means he fits right in in Scotland.

I follow Spanish politics almost as closely as I follow Scottish politics. So this week has been interesting as we’ve seen the resurrection of some of the old scare stories from the 2014 independence referendum campaign, particularly those relating to the supposed Spanish veto on Scottish membership of the EU.

It’s no secret that Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy is no fan of independence movements, but what he most categorically didn’t say this week was that Spain would veto an application to join the EU made by an independent Scotland. Neither did he say that he’d block any attempt from a Scotland which had just voted for independence to negotiate to retain the UK’s membership of the EU.

Although the Unionist media has been eager to paint Rajoy’s words as bad news for Nicola Sturgeon, what he said was far worse news for those who are holding out for a federal solution, with a Scotland and Northern Ireland which are still part of the UK being inside the EU while the rest of the UK is outside it.

Rajoy said quite categorically that if the UK leaves the EU, then Scotland leaves with it. He has ruled out any possibility of Scotland managing to remain a part of the EU while also remaining a part of the UK. He also said that the EU cannot enter negotiations with a part of a state so that it can remain within the EU even though the state it is a part of has just voted to leave. But Rajoy said nothing at all about the European status of an independent Scotland.

Despite the fact that all this has been reported in the Unionist media as a snub for Sturgeon and a blow for the independence campaign, it is nothing of the sort. It’s extremely bad news for those in the Scottish Labour party and the Scottish LibDems who were hoping that Scotland could negotiate EU membership while avoiding another independence referendum.

That option lies dead in the water before it even got out of port. Rajoy torpedoed it.

Rajoy was notably silent on the possibility of Scotland holding a referendum and voting for independence before the Brexit occurs. In fact he ended his statement with the remark, “Whatever happens in the future, that’s not for me to say,” a comment which wasn’t reported in the British press. The Brexit won’t occur for at least two years after the UK Government invokes Article 50 and commences negotiations to leave the EU: if Scotland holds an independence referendum before then and votes for independence, we’re in a whole different game. Already the Belgian press is reporting that the EU is willing to allow Scotland to take over the UK’s EU membership, as long as we go for independence before Brexit.

There’s a common assumption amongst Unionists that Rajoy would veto an independent Scotland in order to discourage the Catalans, but that’s all it is, an assumption. Their belief is based upon a profound misunderstanding of the Spanish political system.

Madrid’s opposition to a Catalan independence referendum is based upon a clause in the Spanish constitution which states that Spain is “una e indivisible”, one and indivisible, and that the territory of the Spanish state is the patrimony of all of the people of Spain. Madrid claims a Catalan independence referendum would be unconstitutional, and refuses to countenance one. For a similar reason Spain refuses to recognise the independence of Kosovo, which Serbia claims is unconstitutional according to the Serbian constitution.

However, none of this applies to Scottish independence. Scottish independence, when it comes, will be entirely legal and constitutional. It will be recognised by the Westminster Parliament. That means that Spain will not have a problem with it and will have no grounds to veto Scottish membership of the EU. Back in February 2014, Spanish foreign minister José-Manuel García-Margallo was asked about Spain’s response to Scottish independence, and insisted that the two situations were “fundamentally different”. Pressed on the issue, he replied: “If Britain’s constitutional order allows – and it seems that it does allow – Scotland to choose independence, we have nothing to say about this.”

Later that summer, as the independence referendum campaign was under way, Mariano Rajoy was explicitly asked during an interview with El Pais newspaper whether he would veto Scottish membership of the EU. Despite being asked three times, Rajoy refused to answer. The reason he refused to answer is because he didn’t want to encourage the Scottish independence campaign by telling the truth and saying no, but if he had lied and said yes he’d have enraged public opinion in Catalonia because he’d just have given them evidence that Spain’s opposition to Catalan independence was nothing to do with the Spanish constitution after all.

There was no real possibility of a Spanish veto back in 2014, and there’s even less of a possibility now. If Scotland votes for independence before the Brexit occurs, we will be able to negotiate with the EU to remain in the EU as a continuing member in exactly the same way that England, Wales and Northern Ireland proposed to continue in the EU if Scotland had voted for independence in 2014. Spain would not oppose that, as it is a radically different set of circumstances to Catalonia. The possibility of a Spanish veto doesn’t even arise.

This week’s statement from the viciously unionist Spanish PM has made Scottish independence more likely, not less likely.