IT became known as the “Spanish veto” and was one of the central negative messages of the Better Together campaign: Spain would veto an independent Scotland’s membership of the EU.

The press reports began within weeks of Alex Salmond announcing in January 2012 his intention to hold an independence referendum and continued despite statements by senior Spanish government ministers that they would not intervene.

One of the first times it was used was around two weeks after the First Minister unveiled his referendum plan on January 10, 2012. The Independent on Sunday reported on January 22 that the Spanish government feared Scottish independence would embolden independence movements in Catalonia and in the Basque country.

READ MORE: Spain: We will not block independent Scotland’s EU membership

The paper carried an article with unnamed “Whitehall sources” saying Spain would stand in the way of Scotland’s ambitions to become an independent nation in the EU “because of fears that it could spark the break-up of the Spanish state”.

It added: “Spanish officials have registered concerns with counterparts in the United Kingdom over the Scottish government’s independence blueprint, senior Whitehall sources confirmed.”

It went on: “Spain has indicated it could block an independent Scotland’s accession to the European Union, sources said.”

A senior UK minister was quoted: “They might wish to join the EU, but we fully expect Spain to block it, fearing it might encourage the separatist spirit on their doorstep.”

The report did not include a response from the Spanish government.

On February 1, 2012, former Labour Europe minister Peter Hain entered the debate stating: “Spain could block an independent Scotland’s membership of the European Union.”

He said: “Scotland, of course, can be independent if it wants to. Personally, I think it will be weaker, it won’t have as much influence in the world, and it might not get back into the EU because I suspect the Spanish will veto it.”

Later the same month the Spanish Government intervened – pointing out it had nothing to say on Scottish independence or the country’s EU membership.

Spanish foreign minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo said: “If the two parts of the United Kingdom are in agreement that it is in accord with their constitutional arrangement, written or unwritten, Spain would have nothing to say. We would simply maintain that it does not affect us.”

The National: Jose Manuel Garcia-MargalloJose Manuel Garcia-Margallo

He added: “The constitutional arrangements of the United Kingdom are one thing, those of Spain another, and it is their own business if they decide to separate from one another.”

His intervention did not stop Better Together’s Project Fear – even though in February 2014 Spain once again made clear its position.

In an interview Garca-Margallo said: “If Scotland becomes independent in accordance with the legal and institutional procedures, it will ask for admission [to the EU]. If that process has indeed been legal, that request can be considered. If not, then not.”

Nevertheless, weeks ahead of the referendum Better Together brought up the Spanish veto again.

A statement it released in the last week of August in 2014 carried comments by Ruairi Quinn, a former president of the European and Financial Affairs Council of the EU, saying that Spain – and Belgium – would veto Scotland’s entry.

Douglas Alexander, the then- shadow foreign secretary and speaking for Better Together, said: “That it is taking outsiders like Mr Quinn to tell Scots the truth on issues like the EU is testament to the deceit of the Nationalist campaign.”

And it still continues today. Search Twitter for Spain, veto, Scotland or Catalonia, and you’ll find many Unionists trying to claim Scotland’s bid to join would be rejected by Madrid. Today, we can finally put that lie to bed.