Catalan Independence: Hiding behind the Spanish constitution

A lot of Scottish independence supporters feel an affinity with the people of Catalonia and draw comparisons between the situation in Spain to the one we face here.

Others say the situation there is completely different. Catalonia isn’t country and the Spanish constitution is different and, as such, the Catalan case for independence is weak.

Whatever you think, there is at least one similarity between recent events in the UK and Spain.

Both the Scottish and Catalan parliaments recently voted to hold independence referendums and in both cases, their respective national governments have attempted to subvert these democratic decisions.

In truth though, regardless of whether you believe Catalonia should be independent or not, the situation is far worse there.

May’s denial of inderef2 was a bit half-hearted. ‘Now is not the time’ was more of a stalling tactic than a direct refusal. May hoped to delay making a decision until after the General Election. She hoped making the General Election all about independence would lead to Sturgeon getting cold feet.

May’s gamble paid off but if Sturgeon had held firm and pressed the matter it is unthinkable that May would have acted with same the same authoritarian vitriol as Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has.

Still, May doesn’t have a Spanish style constitution to hide behind.

The UK, unlike Spain, doesn’t have a foundation document stating that the country is indivisible. Because of this law, it is hard to deny that the Catalan referendum is illegal because strictly speaking it is.

And because of this, the ruling party in Spain is cracking down hard on anyone threatening the constitution.

Yet, it is undoubtedly true that the current situation is a direct result of the political process failing Catalonia.

In 2006 a new Statute of Autonomy, giving the region more power, was agreed between the Catalan government and the Spanish government. It was approved by a referendum of the Catalan people. This was a political issue, dealt with by an agreement between political bodies as should be the case.

This law was neutered by a politicised Spanish Constitutional Court ruling. The court case was initiated by the Peoples Party who have subsequently become the ruling party in Spain. Because of this, many people in Catalonia felt betrayed and since then there have been many mass gatherings in Barcelona in favour of holding an independence referendum.

And just like in Scotland, a pro-independence majority was elected to parliament with a mandate to hold a vote on the future of the region.

Still, holding a referendum unilaterally was not the preferred choice of the people.

The Catalan Parliament has requested the permission to hold a Scottish style referendum at least 19 times in recent years but these requests have been met with deaf ears. Each time the Spanish government responds by stating that a referendum is unconstitutional and urges the Catalan people to seek to change the Spanish constitution.

All the time knowing that the Catalan government does not have a realistic chance of doing so. Only discussion and compromise between the two sides can lead to the consensus that would be needed.

Here in Scotland, the Edinburgh Agreement showed how two entities that hold completely opposing views on independence can find a political solution.

In Spain, there does not seem to be such a willingness in Government to give any ground. A manufactured situation that allows the Spanish Prime Minister to hide behind the constitution and engage in behaviour that here would not be accepted.

Politicians are being arrested, leaflets are being confiscated, gatherings broken up, threats are being made, heavily armed police officers are being shipped in and newspapers are being told what they can and cannot print.

As noted in the letter to Donald Tusk from some SNP politicians.

Not only is Spain willing to ignore the right of self-determination as defined under article one of the UN charter. They are also willing to trample over several fundamental human rights.

  • The right of freedom of expression.
  • The right of peaceful assembly.
  • The right of freedom of association with others
  • The right and opportunity to take part in the conduct of public affairs, directly or through chosen representatives.
  • The right to vote and be elected at genuine periodic elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret ballot, guaranteeing the free expression and will of the electors.

The moral question here is not about whether you think Catalonia should be independent.

It is about whether a group of people should have a viable legal process with which they can, if they wish, express their will to be a nation or not.

At the moment too many people in power are urging the Catalan government to follow due process while ignoring the fact that the Spanish government has ensured that no such process is open to them.

Instead of asking the Spanish government to act in a conciliatory manner, most world leaders are either silent on the issue or taking the easy option of hiding behind the constitution.

You expect this sort of moral and intellectual cowardice from the likes of May and Trump.

However, when you see it coming from Jean Claude Junker and Jeremy Corbyn, it really does make you question what they actually stand for.

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Bobby Hainey

Joint founder of Autonomyscotland. In my spare time I enjoy Road Cycling, Munro bagging and beer.

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