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Global Briefing

European leaders relieved after Scotland rejects independence


European officials have expressed unconcealed relief at Scotland’s vote against independence from Britain. In Brussels, the European Commission said the Scottish vote was good for a “united, open and stronger Europe”. EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said that “The European Commission welcomes the fact that during the debate over the past years, the Scottish government and the Scottish people have repeatedly reaffirmed their European commitment.”

Prior to the referendum, Spain’s industry minister Jose Manuel Soria had said that an independent Scotland would be bad for the Scots and would mean international isolation. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, struggling to suppress an independence drive by the northwestern region of Catalonia, said the Scottish result was the best outcome for Europe: “The Scottish have avoided serious economic, social, institutional and political consequences. They have chosen the most favourable option for everyone; for themselves, for all of Britain and for the rest of Europe.”

Belgian EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht, whose native Flanders region is seeing a growing nationalist movement, said a Scottish split would have been “cataclysmic” for Europe, triggering a domino effect across the continent. He said that “A Europe driven by self-determination of peoples…is ungovernable because you’d have dozens of entities but areas of policy for which you need unanimity or a very large majority”.

French President François Hollande expressed his fear of a possible “deconstruction” of Europe after decades of closer integration. Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said the Scottish result made him content because “I take it as yet another proof that the world has not gone entirely mad.” He said that if Britain had fallen apart, it could have led to a wave of nationalism that would have destabilised a number of other European countries.

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi underlined how the Scottish vote raised hopes that a united but more decentralised Britain would remain in the European Union: “The value of diversity and the riches of our territories, not fragmentation, is the answer which the Scottish people, rightly proud of their history and traditions, has given to all of us”.

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