Scottish Government concerned Spain could block EU entry

An email disclosed at the UK Covid-19 inquiry showed there was concern among figures in the Scottish Government that the Spanish government would block entry to the EU were the country to become independent.

The message appears to have been sent from the email address of then-deputy first minister John Swinney, but was signed by someone named Scott.

The Scottish Government has contacted the inquiry about the email and said in an advisory statement that it was written by “a civil servant and not the Deputy First Minister himself, or anyone in his office or communicating on his behalf”.

It stated: “I’m extremely concerned about this. Spain is now being held to a much higher level of scrutiny and performance than other countries.

“If it is not added to the exemptions list, ministers will have to explain why not when it has an estimated point prevalence rate of 0.015 compared to 0.33 when the decision not include (sic) was originally taken – 0.015 is verging on green.

“There is visible action from the Spanish authorities to do whatever it takes to suppress outbreaks (compare and contrast with outbreaks in England).

Covid-19 pandemic inquiry
Scotland’s former first minister Nicola Sturgeon leaves the UK Covid-19 Inquiry hearing, after giving evidence (Jane Barlow/PA)

“It won’t matter how much ministers might justify it on health grounds, the Spanish government will conclude it is entirely political; they won’t forget; there is a real possibility they will never approve EU membership for an independent Scotland as a result.”

Discussing the email at the inquiry, the former first minister said: “These are decisions that were taken for public health reasons that were difficult decisions.”

She said: “I hoped that the decisions my government would take would keep Covid at the lowest possible level, so that it took the lives of fewer people, minimised the disruption to people’s livelihoods and the education of children.

“I accept that there will be genuine and serious scrutiny of the content of decisions that were taken, and some of those decisions I wish I had taken, my government, had taken differently, some – I think – were right.

“My motives in this were only ever about trying to do the right thing to minimise the overall harm that the virus was doing.

“The toll it took, in Scotland, as in other parts of the UK, was far too high, so I didn’t do that as successfully as I wish I was able to, but perhaps in some ways the measures we took had some impact.”