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  By a Newsnet reporter

Politicians from anti-independence parties from Scotland and Spain are to meet in order to agree a formal collaboration aimed at co-ordinating arguments against an independent Scotland and Catalonia remaining members of the European Union.

According to the newspaper El Periódico de Catalunya, a senior figure in the Spanish Conservative party, the Partido Popular (PP), will fly to Scotland to meet with Scottish Conservative and Labour politicians in order to agree a united front against independence.

The newspaper has revealed that Esteban González Pons, the PP's Vice-Secretary of Studies and Programmes, will meet with unnamed Labour and Tory representatives in December.

The meeting follows negotiations conducted between Mr González Pons and senior figures in the Conservative party during the party’s October conference in Birmingham.  December’s trip is expected to see the finalising of discussions before the signing of an accord that was reached at the conference.

The Spanish party are seeking agreements that would allow existing EU member states to veto the membership of newly independent countries.

In the article, the Catalan language newspaper says [English translation in brackets]:

El vicesecretari d' Estudis i Programes del PP, Estaban González Pons, ha negociat la firma d'un acord de col•laboració política amb els conservadors britànics, que es posarà negre sobre blanc al desembre a Madrid.

[The vice-secretary of Studies and Programmes of the PP, Esteban González Pons, has negotiated the signing of an accord of political collaboration with the British Conservatives, which will be put in black and white in December in Madrid.]

El dirigent conservador va participar a Birmingham en la convenció dels conservadors britànics, on es va reunir amb els principals lìders per fixar posició.

[The leading conservative attended the conference of the British Conservatives in Birmingham, where he met with the principal leaders in order to fix a position.]

El vicesecretari d'Estudis del PP, que té previst viatjar al mes de desembre vinent a Escòcia per entrevistar-se amb conservadors i laboristes, lamenta que CiU hagi emprès el camí de la "política màgica" en aquest moment de greu inestabilitat econòmica.

[The vice-secretary of Studies of the PP, who has planned a trip to Scotland the coming month of December in order to meet with Conservatives and Labour, complains that the CiU [the party pressing for a Catalan referendum] has undertaken the path of "political magic" in this moment of grave economic instability.]

Although the PP has consistently maintained that the constitutional and legal situations of Catalonia and Scotland are incomparable, the Spanish party is seeking to build a common front between parties opposed to independence and to give the same response to demands for Scottish or Catalan sovereignty.

In the article, Mr González Pons said: "Catalonia and Scotland are different regions and have different problems, but the response has to be a joint one."

The Partido Popular also sought to raise the issue at the congress of the European Popular Party, a bloc of right wing and conservative parties in the European Parliament, held in the Romanian capital Bucharest two weeks ago.

The party hopes to gain an agreement with right wing parties from other EU member states to block the accession to the EU of any European territory which seeks independence from the state of which it currently forms a part.

Although there has been no ruling from the European Commission on the status of an independent Scotland or Catalonia, the Partido Popular hopes to gain enough support from fellow conservatives to force the issue in the European Parliament, and achieve a vote in favour of imposing their preferred position.  The agreement due to be signed between the Partido Popular and the British Conservatives in Madrid in December is believed to form a key part of this strategy.

The meetings raise serious questions for Labour and the Conservatives, and opens them to the accusation that they are actively plotting with foreign political parties to damage Scotland's interests in the event that the referendum vote does not go the way they want.  The secret meetings between senior Conservatives and the PP will be seen by some as a clear demonstration that the UK government is engaged in an active campaign to create uncertainty and insecurity about the future of an independent Scotland.

In agreeing to meet with Mr González Pons, Labour in Scotland risks considerable political damage.  The report that the Labour party is prepared to reach a deal with the Spanish Partido Popular, the political heirs to the party of the dictator General Franco, will sit uneasily with party members who are proud of the role played by Scottish socialists of the International Brigade who fought against Franco during the Spanish Civil War.

One of the demands of the anti-fascist forces was the right of Catalonia to determine its own future.

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