Scots nationalists mired in confusion over Catalonia
Scottish nationalists, and even some English Conservatives, have got themselves into a mess over Catalonia where the majority boycotted the recent independence referendum. The EU also opposes Catalan independence as much as Scottish independence, leaving the pro-EU SNP totally confused, and at a sorry dead end
It is no surprise that the most vocal backers of the Catalan breakaway bid are Scottish Nationalists. Dozens of past and present parliamentarians descended on the region before and after the spurious referendum of 1 October.
Catalonia obtained extensive autonomy in 1977 when Franco was hardly cold in his grave. Scotland followed suit in 1999, and in both places the level of self-government has been much expanded. But in 2010 the courts struck down a charter that would have entrenched Catalan sovereignty and recognised Catalonia as a nation within Spain.
On 28 September, at the Sheraton hotel in Edinburgh, I heard George Kerevan, a prominent SNP MP from 2015 to 2017, describe contemporary Spain as a continuation of the Franco regime. The 1978 constitution which bestowed autonomy on the whole country was, he argued, only meant to be a temporary expedient.
He and his colleagues view Catalonia as the separatist mothership in Europe. In power for decades, its nationalists used their authority to erect ever larger barriers with the rest of Spain. Public education disparaged the Castilian language.
Third World minorities were encouraged to settle in order to become a fresh nucleus for separatism. The regional police was manipulated by politicians who tried to buy arms to turn it into an embryo Catalan army. Not many were surprised when it refused to obey a court ruling instructing it to prevent the democratic order being overturned in an illegal vote that would pave the way for independence.
The symbols of democracy were being cynically used by separatists on 1 October to pave the way for a territorial breakaway unwanted by the majority of people in the region. Images of the central police trying to halt an electoral travesty were used to depict Catalonia as the plucky freedom fighter defying intolerant Spain.
Naturally, Scottish admirers have ignored the corruption associated with the main party in the nationalist coalition. Recent findings have shown that top officials got rich by slapping a 3 percent commission on public projects.
Kerevan, who hopes to be appointed head of the Financial Conduct Authority in Scotland, predicted that independence would come without economic disruption. Yet in the last days many of Catalonia’s top firms have taken steps to move their headquarters from the region out of fear that they will soon no longer be covered by EU or Spanish laws.
I warned the SNP politician Kenny Gibson MSP that soon the SNP would be sorry that it had launched a crusade for Catalonia. And so it has proved. The party meets in conference this week and Catalonia will be sidelined.
It is discomfited by the nature of a referendum boycotted by nearly all of the majority and whose conduct was in the hands of one side which proclaimed a 90 percent victory on a 40 percent turnout (there being no impediment stopping people voting more than once).
Like the Catalan separatists many in the SNP are fanatically pro-EU. Despite its name, it is really a post-national party committed to all of the globalists PC nostrums of the age. It wishes to create a one world enclave separate from its nearest neighbour England just as Catalan separatists wish to do in relation to the rest of Spain.
But the SNP was scalded when the EU ranged itself emphatically against Catalan secession. It makes no difference in Brussels that many Catalan activist are enthusiastic federalists. On the journey towards integration the EU does not want to see any new states created. It wants existing nation-states to revert to being regions of Europe with less power than Catalonia has now.
Scotland and Catalonia are like those Third world communist movements of the Cold War era whose militancy was awkward for the Soviet Union which turned its back on them, leading many comrades to be slaughtered.
Doctored videos and photos suggested wholesale repression had been carried out by Madrid on 1 October when many of the 900 or so injured had suffered little more than panic attacks or hypertension.
Anyone hoping the serious end of the British media might have spotted the ruse being practised by the separatists would have been disappointed. All last week, commentaries appeared about innocent people being roughly barred from exercising their democratic right to vote. The Times editorial on 4 October was emblematic.
There were calls for dialogue or for outside mediation with Tony Blair being seen as the ‘go to’ man.
Those on the conservative ‘patriotic’ wing of politics, like Nigel Farage, who might have been expected to defend the right to exist of a nation-state, instead branded Spain as the oppressor. Much was made of the EU’s pro-Spain position.
But the first major European government to come down strongly on the side of Spain defending its constitutional right not to be broken up was Britain. Boris Johnson’s Foreign Office issued a far more ringing defence of Spain on the afternoon of 1 October than anything that later came out of Brussels.
Few people seem to have publicly thought through what the unravelling of Spain would mean for the peninsula and wider Europe. If 3-4 historic regions become independent, their economic viability will be tenuous as will that of rump Spain. They will look to the economic ‘kindness’ of strangers. Countries like Qatar and Saudi Arabia are likely to be obliging but for a steep price.
They have used their economic heft to promote their religious and cultural brand right across the West. Foundations linked to these regimes support people who believe that southern Spain, the province of Andalucia, only temporarily seceded from the Islamic world in 1492 and ought to return.
The break-up of Spain is unlikely to usher in a peninsula like the Scandinavian one composed of mutually helpful states. It is more likely that Iberia would descend into chaos and extremism as happened with the successor-states of the Austro-Hungarian empire.
If this is the end-point, many will criticise the lethargy of Spain’s Prime Minister Rajoy. He has been assailed for not having taken more energetic steps to assert Spain’s constitutional prerogative to foil a break-up.
It is futile to expect wise reflections from angry parochial Scottish separatists but it might be expected from a conservative intellectual in politics like Daniel Hannan MEP. Instead, he wrote a lurid piece for the Spectator last week in which he portrayed an intolerant Spain stuck in 1936 fanaticism and bigotry.
This dark legend of evil Spain could just as easily have appeared in an Irish Republican or Scottish Nationalist paper.
From King Felipe downwards, and including politicians like the Catalan leader of the opposition Albert Rivera and the veteran socialist Josep Borrell, many public figures have displayed admirable firmness in wising to prevent the crushing of the democratic order through mutilating the country by means of a spurious referendum.
They have the majority of Spaniards on their side and a huge swathe of Catalan opinion which has, in the past, been intimidated into silence by the Barcelona authorities.
Few wish to recentralise Spain. But there is the need to avoid its balkanisation which will produce petty tyrannies perhaps even worse than what Spain knew in the past. A new devolution settlement is needed, one which prevents extremists preparing for secession.
But the current poverty of thinking on Spain in Britain suggests that it is one of the last places which will be a counsel of good sense.
Professor Tom Gallagher has written over a dozen books on territorial politics in Europe. He recently completed a novel called Flight of Evil: An Anglo-Scottish Odyssey which will be published next year
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