By Martin Kelly
The Conservative party has admitted that Scottish leader Ruth Davidson had a secret meeting with a delegation from the Spanish Partido Popular (PP) at the Tory party conference in Birmingham in October.
However they have denied that they negotiated a deal that would see a common front in opposition to a newly independent Scotland and Catalonia remaining in the EU.
In a statement yesterday, a spokesperson for the Conservative party said they had "absolutely no intention" of entering into any such agreement with the PP.
The statement followed a report in the Spanish newspaper El Periódico, which claimed an accord was to be signed between the Tories and the PP in order to give a joint response to the independence aspirations of Catalonia and Scotland.
The claims followed comments from senior PP figure Esteban González Pons, who had revealed that a meeting had taken place between himself and senior figures from the Tory party in Birmingham. According to Mr González Pons an accord had been reached that would be ratified at a later meeting in Madrid.
The senior PP official also revealed a planned trip to Scotland in December, where he claimed a meeting had been arranged between himself and representatives of the Conservative and Labour parties.
According to the press agency ACN, the Conservative spokesperson admitted that the Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson had indeed met with a delegation from the PP, headed by Esteban González Pons, to discuss the situations in Scotland and Catalonia.
However, the spokesperson insisted "there were no agreements, formal or informal, to do anything with them [the PP] at any moment in the future."
Sources within the Conservative party assured the ACN press agency that "there is no pact or plans to make any such pact," and added: "This is how the situation is, we have absolutely no intention of making such an agreement."
The publication of the Conservatives' statement came hours after Newsnet Scotland published our article detailing the allegations made in the Spanish media.
The Spanish Partido Popular makes no secret of its attempts to construct a European-wide alliance of parties opposed to independence movements within their states, in the hope of securing a resolution in the European Parliament that newly independent countries formed from part of an existing member state would be expelled from the EU.
Comments from Mr González Pons, who is known to be the party’s euro-fixer, and others within the Partido Popular strongly suggest that the party sought to offer British Conservatives a quid pro quo deal, whereby the UK government would press for the expulsion of an independent Catalonia from the EU in return for the Spanish government's support of a similar measure against an independent Scotland.
With the admission that the meeting did take place, there will now be questions as to what was discussed, why members of the PP were invited to attend the Conservative Conference and why the meeting was not made public at the time.
Newsnet Scotland has now contacted the Scottish Conservatives with the following questions:
Many will also want confirmation that the Conservative party will not collaborate with the Partido Popular or any other foreign party in order to block or hinder Scottish accession to the EU in the event of a Yes vote in the independence referendum.
[Newsnet Comment: Newsnet is aware that the Scottish Conservatives were angered by yesterday's report. Conservative figures have criticised this site, saying that we failed to contact them for a statement before publishing the allegations detailed in the Spanish media.
However Newsnet Scotland has in the past made repeated attempts to contact the Scottish Conservatives for a statement on a story prior to publication. All our attempts have been ignored by the party, which even refuses to acknowledge our repeated requests to be added to the party's press mailing list.
We have also contacted Scottish Labour to seek clarification on claims by Mr González Pons that a meeting has been scheduled in December between himself, Conservative and Labour representatives.]