5 thoughts on Catalonia from a Scottish independence supporter
1/ Most people, even No voters, did condemn the violence in Catalonia.
I saw a lot of Scottish independence supporters on social media on Sunday having a go at unionists for not condemning the violence. However, it was clear to me that the majority of supporters of the union were just as outraged as the majority of Scottish independence supporters. I noticed many high profile Better Together stalwarts criticising the Spanish government in the strongest possible terms. Dugdale, JK Rowling, Corbyn and even Katie Hopkins spoke out against the strong-handed tactics.
I’d say the vast majority of people were appalled regardless of political persuasion. Most people know that you don’t need to support independence to think that beating people for trying to vote is just plain wrong.
2/ The arguments in support of the violence were weak.
A few people did support the actions of the Spanish government by pointing out that they were just upholding the law. This argument is extremely weak and it pains me for having to point this out. First of all, as we discussed in our previous Catalonia blog, you can’t solve a political problem by hiding behind laws. Especially if those laws disenfranchise one side of the argument. Peaceful civil disobedience is an important progressive force in the history of civilisation and a mature properly functioning state needs to respect this.
To quote Robin McAlpine.
The law and the constitution were on the side of the British Empire in India. They were on the side of the Nazis and their concentration camps. They were on the side of white South Africans and their apartheid regime, the slave trade, the white segregationists in the US.
And do you know who was, in their day, on the wrong side of the law and the constitution? Black African slaves, Jews facing genocide, women who wanted to be able to vote, gay men who wished to live their lives openly, Rosa Parks, Gandhi, Mandela, Jesus.
Rule of law is an important thing but the response of the state to civil disobedience needs to be proportional or else people will lose respect for the authority enforcing it. What we saw on Sunday from the Spanish was many orders of magnitude more severe than what would be considered fair to most reasonable people. The government could have allowed the vote to go ahead freely but could still have legitimately refused to accept the result. What they actually did was counterproductive because it made Spain look terrible and it strengthened support for the cause they are trying to counter.
3/ The response of the EU was cowardly.
The response of the EU was particularly disappointing from the perspective of a Scottish nationalist. As I said before, it is perfectly legitimate to not support this referendum and it is acceptable for the EU and others to voice the opinion that the referendum was illegal. However, when armed militarised police are attacking peaceful unarmed civilians on the streets of Europe, the EU commision should state loudly and clearly that this is unacceptable.
Scottish independence supporters have shown a lot of respect for the EU over the years despite the EU not always being there for us. Scotland is one of the few parts of the UK that values the EU and voted to remain within it. The muted response to the authoritarian violence and repression shown by Spain has really damaged the reputation of the EU in the eyes of many. I understand that the EU doesn’t want to get involved in member nations constitutional affairs but that is in no way a barrier to speaking out against what we saw on Sunday.
4/ UDI(Unilateral Declaration of Independence) is not a viable option for Catalonia
There is a lot of talk about the Catalan government declaring UDI this week and many Scottish nationalists want the SNP to do that here.
We have gone into why UDI is a bad idea for Scotland and some of the same arguments stand for Catalonia. The most obvious point is that Catalonia is currently divided. Just like in Scotland, it doesn’t make much sense to declare independence when half the country doesn’t actually want it. It is a recipe for years of strife and unrest.
Also, as we covered before, the key to being a successful independent country is international recognition. If Catalonia was to declare independence now, not only will it cause mass unrest in the region, but the Catalans will also be frozen out of the international community. This would make it very difficult for them to flourish as a new nation in the medium term.
If support grows for independence and if all political avenues remain closed then UDI would become a legitimate option but it still wouldn’t be an easy one.
5/ The solution needs to be political.
In our previous blog looking at the history of this crisis, we pointed out that the Spanish government has in recent years prevented meaningful political dialogue around this issue.
If there is to be any progress that doesn’t involve years of violence, repression and acrimony then a political process must start up urgently. The best solution would be for the EU Commission/UN to put pressure on the Spanish to talk to the Catalans and, in return, for the Catalans to put declaring independence on hold.
The unity of Spain cannot be the subject of any mediation or negotiation.
If dialogue doesn’t happen soon, then I fear the situation will escalate quickly. Not opening up a political process will force the Catalans towards UDI which will almost certainly result in direct rule from Madrid. In that scenario, any remaining goodwill on both sides will be lost, and the scenes we witnessed on Sunday may well come to look tame in comparison to what might follow.
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