Nicola Sturgeon fury as independent Scotland would be snubbed like Kosovo in Spain

Nicola Sturgeon and Douglas Ross clash in election debate

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Spain’s 3-1 win over Kosovo in Wednesday night’s World Cup qualifier was embroiled in controversy. Kosovo’s name was written in lower-case letters on TV and media due to the Spanish not recognising their independence. Kosovo broke away from Serbia in 2008 and, after a period playing only friendly games, the national team was finally accepted as a UEFA and FIFA member in 2016.

The country made its debut in World Cup qualification in 2016 but after five years, Spain is still not accepting Kosovo as its own country.

On social media, many strongly criticised the move.

Football Joe wrote on Twitter: “Because Spain does not recognise Kosovo independence, their name is being written in lower-case letters for tonight’s game.

“Beyond petty.”

Spain is now one of just a handful of countries yet to recognise Kosovo as a state, with China, Russia, Greece, Slovakia and Romania holding a similar position.

In an exclusive interview with Express.co.uk, Mar Aguilera Vaqués, professor of constitutional law at the University of Barcelona, argued that if Scotland becomes independent, it would be treated in the same way by the Spanish government.

She explained: “We had a football match. Spain against Kosovo and there was the biggest scandal.

“On Spanish television they wrote Kosovo in lower case because Spain doesn’t recognise its independence.”

Ms Aquilera Vaqués added: “I guess it would be the same for Scotland for sure…

“They don’t want to replicate what is happening here with Catalonia.”

Catalonia is one of Spain’s wealthiest and most productive regions and has a distinct history dating back almost 1,000 years.

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Its desire for independence stretches back decades.

Three years since its government’s failed attempt to unilaterally declare independence, Catalonia has somewhat disappeared from international headlines.

However, while its institutions are unlikely to pose any serious new threats to Spain’s stability, the political situation in the autonomous region is far from normalised.

Several pro-independence politicians are currently in jail or in exile, violent protests regularly break out in the streets, and the ‘war of flags’ continues on the balconies of Catalonia’s towns and cities.

It was indeed Spain who, ahead of the Scottish independence referendum in 2014, crushed former First Minister Alex Salmond’s hopes for a smooth EU transition.

The ex-Spanish leader Mariano Rajoy told his government in 2013 that he believed an independent Scotland could only apply to join the EU from outside the organisation as a new state, as he warned against regions of Europe embarking on “solo adventures in an uncertain future”.

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While Mr Rajoy’s government was facing an election in late 2013, before Scotland formally sought to become independent, the Spanish politician’s words were seen as an effective veto on immediate Scottish entry to the EU.

Speaking at a joint press conference with former French President François Hollande, Mr Rajoy said: “It’s very clear to me, as it is for everybody else in the world, that a country that would obtain independence from the EU would remain out of the EU, and that is good for Scottish citizens to know and for all EU citizens to know.”

Mr Rajoy said EU treaties “apply only to member states that have agreed and ratified them, and if a part of one member state cleaves from the member state, it converts itself into a third party with relation to the EU”.

He added: “That is the law and that law applies.

“In no way does it benefit our European regions and our citizens to propose divisions or solo adventures in an uncertain future in which the exit points may seem clear but the destination is unknown.”

The five leaders of Scotland’s larger political parties took part in their first televised debate of the 2021 Holyrood election campaign on Tuesday.

After initially saying a referendum would only be held when the “coronavirus crisis has passed”, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was forced to admit she wants to see a second constitutional vote within the first half of the next parliamentary term.

Her remarks were immediately criticised by opposition leaders, who said the government’s focus should be on tackling child poverty, the educational attainment gap and the remobilisation of the NHS and cancer services in particular.

Support for Scottish independence has been gradually rising during the past five years, due to Ms Sturgeon’s high popularity and instability in Westminster, especially over Brexit.

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