The situation in Catalonia is growing dangerous. The Spanish State has been emboldened by the lack of international support for the newly declared Catalan Republic, and it’s quite possible that Mariano Rajoy will take this as a signal that his government can get away with a brutal repression of the Catalan independence movement. It’s all very well calling for dialogue and saying it’s the only solution to the problem. That is a statement of the obvious. However the problem with calling for dialogue is that you need someone to have meaningful dialogue with, and Madrid has shown not the slightest inclination to engage in it. The lack of overt support for the Catalan declaration of independence will only strengthen La Moncloa’s resolve to maintain a hardline stance. (La Moncloa is the seat of the Spanish government.) But equally Madrid’s intransigence will only make the Catalans more determined.
There are some who have argued that the Scottish independence movement should distance itself from Catalonia. After all, Catalonia has embarked upon a declaration of UDI without a clear and unequivocal mandate from a majority of the Catalan people. The Catalan movement might have received considerable momentum from the corruption in which the Spanish political parties, and especially the Partido Popular of Mariano Rajoy, are mired, but some of the Catalan parties are by no means immune to corruption scandals of their own. There is a strain of unattractive right wing ethnic nationalism in Catalonia, particularly within the CiU, which is considerably more influential than in Scotland. All of these are genuine and legitimate reasons why some people within the Scottish independence movement are uncomfortable with too close an association of our movement with Catalonia.
Catalonia is where it is because Madrid has refused to negotiate, refused to compromise, refused to recognise the Catalan right to self-determination, and because it attempted to brutally suppress the referendum of October 1. However supporting the Catalans in their current situation does not imply that Scotland’s independence movement should copy the tactics employed by its Catalan equivalent. We are similar in that we are both highly developed European democracies which seek independence from the states we are currently a part of, but there are also many differences between Scotland and Catalonia. Our respective independence movements operate within very different political and cultural landscapes and originate from very different historical backgrounds.
Language is at the centre of the Catalan debate, while in Scotland language issues will always be peripheral and at best symbolic. Catalonia has a diverse and vibrant media which is far more representative of the range of opinions within the country than anything found in Scotland’s partisan overwhelmingly Unionist propaganda outfits. Catalonia has a tradition of outdoor events and rallies which isn’t found in a wet and windy Scotland. Catalonia’s debate comes out of a recent historical memory of a fascist dictatorship and a Spain which tried to brush the remnants of Francoism under the carpet without anything equivalent to the de-nazification of Germany post-WW2. But the biggest difference of all is that the Scottish movement does not operate under a constitution which doesn’t recognise our right to self-determination, within a legal system which categorically prohibits an independence referendum, and a central government which is willing to use force.
We can, and should, be inspired by Catalan determination and resolve. We should stand with them and support their right to determine their own future because if we don’t support the right of other nations to self-determination then we have no right to expect that others will support Scotland’s right to self-determination. But we cannot take the tactics of Catalonia and transpose them to Scotland in the expectation that they will fall on fertile ground. They won’t. Scotland needs to shape its own individual path to independence, and we shall.
Catalonia’s biggest obstacle to independence is the Spanish constitution. Scotland’s biggest obstacle is the mendacious and unrepresentative British nationalist media which dominates the Scottish airwaves and newsagency shelves. I am convinced that if Scotland had a media as diverse and representative as Catalonia’s, we’d be independent already. The British nationalists know that too, that’s why they’re so determined to prevent Scotland getting its own public service broadcaster and why they’re so threatened by the two pro-independence newspapers that we do have.
One by one the promises and commitments made by the Better Together campaign in 2014 turn to dust. While we’ve all been distracted by the drama in Catalonia, another reason given for Scotland to remain a part of the UK died this weekend. Yet Scotland’s media doesn’t broadcast that from the rooftops in the way it sung to the heavens and puffed up all the promises and claims made by the Unionist parties in 2014. “So Devo Max then,” said Jackie back in 2014 when she was interviewing Alistair Darling about the Vow. Where’s the analysis from the BBC about how far short of devo max the Vow fell in reality? Don’t go holding your breath.
Remember all that about voting No in 2014 because you were worried about your pension? A study out this weekend showed that UK pensions are amongst the worst in the developed world. Only Hong Kong and Taiwan have worse pension provision than the UK, and those are societies in which there is a far more ingrained culture of younger generations having a social obligation to care for their older relatives. People in the UK are going to have to save far more of their income than they currently are in order to stave off penury in old age, but saving is becoming ever harder as wages stagnate for the many while ballooning for the rich and low paid gig jobs spread across the face of the economy like a bad outbreak of plukes. Meanwhile the state retirement age in the UK is creeping up, and today’s young Scots could face having to work until their 70s before qualifying for a state pension. And that’s in a country where there are communities where the average life expectancy for men is 65 or lower. Vote to be British, vote to work for a pittance until you drop.
The crisis in Catalonia continues, but the Scottish independence movement is quietly getting on with the day job (© Ruth Davidson) of organising a grassroots movement that’s going to win a legal vote on Scottish self-determination. There promises to be a huge attendance at the SIC’s Build conference in the Usher Hall in Edinburgh on November 4, where I’ll be amongst the speakers. There are no spaces left at the local groups conference which yours truly has organised in Dunblane on Saturday December 16. We’re getting organised, we’re getting into shape, we’re getting our act together.
Our task as a movement will be to deliver to the people of this country the information that our biased British nationalist media doesn’t want them to have. It will be to join the dots and demonstrate how only independence can protect Scotland from the negative consequences of a Tory led Brexit. It will be to point out and highlight the democratic deficit that blights Scotland. It will be to campaign in a recognised vote on Scottish independence. We can and should show our solidarity with Catalonia, with the Basque Country, with the Kurds, and with all those other stateless nations which seek self-determination, but we must always recognise that our movement will and must tread its own distinctively Scottish path. It’s a path that’s peaceful, democratic, legal, legitimate, and which will lead to a declaration of independence that’s negotiated with Westminster and internationally recognised. That’s exactly what we’re going to do.
The Wee Ginger Dug has got a new domain name, thanks to Indy Poster Boy, Colin Dunn @Zarkwan. http://www.indyposterboy.scot/ You can now access this blog simply by typing www.weegingerdug.scot into the address bar of your browser, the old address continues to function, the new one redirects to the blog. The advantage of the new address is that it’s a lot easier to remember if you want to include a link to the blog in leaflets, posters, or simply to tell a friend about it. Many thanks to Colin.
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