Catalonia's foreign secretary has called for EU reforms to allow Scotland or his own country to stay in the bloc.

Writing in today's Herald, Roger Albinyana urged Brussels to find a "mechanism or protocol" to manage fraught independence processes within Europe's borders.

His remarks are a more than tacit admission that there is no simple automatic or legalistic route in to the EU for either country, should they win independence.

This was drummed home during last year's referendum in Scotland, when Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said EU membership would be difficult if not impossible" for an independent Scotland.

That assertion sparked a backlash from continental politicians such as former Czech president Vaclav Klaus who insisted Brussels would find some kind of ad-hoc fix to Scottish or Catalan independence.

HeraldScotland:

But Mr Albinyana. pictuired above, said EU institutions "must change their way of tackling internal challenges".

He added: "I am referring to the possible creation, by democratic means, of new states emerging from existing member states.

"This possibility, as we saw a year ago in Scotland or, which is now the case for Catalonia, worries the European institutions.

"It should not be that way. Neither Catalonia nor Scotland is a problem. "A democratic and peaceful decision taken by a European majority from a territory should never be a cause of fear; to allow it to be so would amount to fear democracy itself and Europe must not go down that road.

"The EU must find a mechanism or protocol to manage such cases, which are not as common as some would make us believe. Besides the Scots and the Catalans, which other European nations without its own state have made a similar proposal? None."

HeraldScotland:

SNP sympathisers with the Catalan cause suspect Mr Albinyana is "flogging a dead horse".

Alyn Smith, a Nationalist MEP who follows Catalan politics closely, said: "The SNP has been seeking precisely this. But EU member states are never going to grant a mechanism whereby the EU is going to facilitate their own dismemberment.

"We have our own experience from the Scottish referendum. If you are looking to Brussels to solve your problems you will wait a long time."

HeraldScotland: ALYN SMITH MEP (48553811)

Mr Smith. pictured, said he was "relaxed" about the EU position. Member states - after independence - have too much to lose by letting a Scotland or a Catalonia go, despite institutional concerns within Brussels about the difficulties of managing "a union of 1000 flags"

He said: "You are only talking about two tops three places in Europe that are looking for independence. So there is no domino effect.

"If the EU wanted to create a right for a particular territory to secede from a member state it would have happened by now. They don't. Black and white. Full stop."

Mr Smith stressed that there could be a role for the EU in Catalonia: in bringing Barcelona and Madrid in to dialogue. An overwhelming majority of Catalans in September voted for parties backing an independence referendum. The Spanish Government, facing tough elections this month, has refused to even countenance a vote, which it says is unconstitutional.

Mr Smith said: "This is rapidly becoming an EU matter."

International organisations have played a role in facilitating free referendums in other places, such as South Sudan.

Professor Michael Keating, of Aberdeen University, stressed that European institutions, including the Council of Europe, have never developed a clear policy on the recognition of new states.

 

HeraldScotland: Prof Keating, pictured, said: "Some member states recognize Kosovo, but others do not.

"During the Scottish referendum campaign, there were conflicting interpretations of how the EU could and would respond to a Yes vote. "Principles for recognition of new states would include the need for a democratic and peaceful process and to take account of the reasonable concerns of the existing states."