There’s an important lesson for Scotland from this week’s events in Catalonia. It’s a lesson that the independence movement in general, and the leadership of the Scottish government in particular, would do well to pay heed to. The lesson is that you don’t achieve self-determination without determination. You don’t become independent unless you think independently. Sovereignty, independence, and self-determination, all of them start in the mind, and all of them are meaningless unless they’re followed through with self-belief and taking action on that self-belief.
That’s what the Catalans are doing. The Catalans are staring down violence and oppression from a Spanish establishment that’s hiding behind legalism as an excuse not to engage with the massive dissatisfaction that exists in Catalonia towards the Spanish state. The Catalans are proving their determination in the face of naked aggression. They are refusing to be deterred, they are refusing to be bowed. They fill the streets. They demand their rights. They will not be cowed.
On Tuesday night King Felipe VI of Spain gave a speech which was supposed to calm and unite the citizens of Spain. All he did was throw petrol in the flames. It was a bitter, partisan speech. He sought no dialogue. He sought no compromises. He blamed the Catalan government for the entirety of the problem, and didn’t even mention, much less condemn, the violent aggression of the Spanish police which had left over 800 people – people whom he claims are equally citizens of Spain – bloodied, bruised, and injured. The speech was a clear attempt to legitimise the repression of the Spanish state, and to justify future actions by Madrid which attempt to block Catalonia’s journey to independence. It is now widely believed in Catalonia that the Spanish government will invoke Article 155 of the Spanish constitution and unilaterally dissolve Catalan self-government.
Spanish overreaction to the Catalan referendum on Sunday will go down in history as a pivotal moment in the Catalan independence campaign. Catalan commentators have likened it to Moscow’s brutal intervention in Lithuania in January 1991 when troops and armed police assaulted the Lithuanian parliament, an event which directly led to Lithuanian independence. Catalans now know that there can be no compromises or dialogue with the Spanish state.
It is believed by many in Catalonia that a declaration of independence could now be hours or days away. The intransigence of the Spanish response to Catalan demands for a peaceful, democratic, and negotiated process have only made that independence come about more quickly. The Catalans have maintained their resolve and their determination, and they will be rewarded with an independent state.
Here in Scotland we’ve got a Scottish government elected on a mandate to deliver an independence referendum should Scotland be dragged out of the EU against its will, and yet it’s haivering and humming and hawing, prevaricating and hesitating, all because it failed to win an election by a sufficiently crushing margin. An election which wasn’t even about independence, an election which by any stretch of the imagination they still won. If this is how they react to a narrow win, just how are they going to deal with something like the Spanish scenario? Where’s the determination to deliver self-determination if Westminster still says naw? Are they going to tell us that they’re going to seek yet another mandate in the election after the next one? Mandates are like driving licences, you only need one. The Scottish government has already got its driving licence to give the country a lift to a referendum.
The lesson from Catalonia is that independence is about the big issues, the big story. It’s about justice and democracy. It’s about representation and political accountability. It’s about what kind of society we want to live in. It’s about fairness, equality, and giving every citizen an equal stake in the country. These are the stories we need to tell in Scotland if we are to achieve our own dream of an independent country.
For far too long the Scottish campaign has been debated on the terms and ground chosen by those who oppose independence, and the independence movement has allowed them to do so. We call those who oppose independence Unionists and so collude in their fantasy that they’re not British nationalists and that this is a debate between nationalism and non-nationalism. This is really a debate between two visions of what this nation can be, a debate between two versions of nationalism. Those who oppose Scottish independence are every bit as nationalist as those who seek it. The only non-nationalist option in this debate is not have an opinion.
Sure, the economy is important, but winning the case for independence is about far more than demonstrating that the average family is going to be better off each week by the price of a Chinese takeaway. We’re ground down by pointless arguments about the GERS figures. These are figures which purport to show Scotland’s financial situation within the UK. If they’re poor, if they show that Scotland is doing badly, that’s not an argument which demonstrates that an independent Scotland would be impoverished, it’s an argument that Scotland needs to do things differently. Bad GERS figures are an argument for independence, not an argument against it. Bad GERS figures are a demonstration that the UK’s economic policies don’t work for Scotland, a country with an embarrassment of natural resources, human capital, and potential.
The biggest obstacles to Catalan independence are the intransigence of the Spanish state, its insistence that Catalan independence would be illegal, and its propensity to resort to naked aggression in order to prevent it. The biggest obstacles to Scottish independence are the media, the way in which we allow the British nationalists to shape the terms of the debate, and our movement’s lack of coherence, determination, and resolve.
Where is the Scottish version of the Assemblea Nacional Catalana – a non-party and all party organisation providing leadership, cohesion and direction to the movement. The Scottish Independence Convention is invisible to the majority. In Catalonia everyone has heard of the ANC which coordinates the independence movement. Over the past months I’ve been doing talks all over Scotland, from Orkney to Stranraer and all points in between. This country is full of active and vital local groups full of passionate people determined and dedicated to the cause of winning Scottish independence. They are crying out for national leadership, to feel a part of a cohesive national movement. There’s to be an SIC conference in Edinburgh next month. It needs to produce some concrete proposals and actions, and not just be another talking shop. It needs to step up and lead this movement.
Catalans who desire independence belong to many different political parties or none. The political differences between the ERC and the CiU are as wide as the differences between the Scottish Socialists and the more traditional right wing end of the SNP, but they don’t waste their time fighting one another. They focus on the common goal. There are those in the Scottish movement who prefer to spend their energies attacking others in the movement for one perceived sin or another. The only beneficiaries of that are the British nationalists. You don’t achieve independence without a measure of self-discipline. Focus on the prize. We can argue about whether the independent Scottish playground will have swings or roundabouts or both once we’ve established the principle of the independent Scottish playground.
Opinion polls in both countries show approximately the same percentages supporting independence. However, objectively, Scotland is in a far stronger position than Catalonia. We face no legal or constitutional bars to independence. Unlike Spain where many people outside Catalonia are viscerally opposed to Catalan independence because they fear its impact on Spanish democracy, the majority of people in the UK outside Scotland don’t really care that much whether Scotland becomes independent or not. Scotland will be able to achieve independence peacefully and without violence. Our independence will be recognised by Westminster. An independent Scotland could be one of the most prosperous countries in Europe. We have one of the crappiest medias in Europe, but we also have a vital and active digital media and a grassroots campaign which can by-pass the traditional media entirely.
We can achieve our goal, we will achieve our goal, but we will only do so by learning a valuable lesson from Catalonia. You do not achieve self-determination without cohesion and determination. Let’s be determined. Let’s be united. Let’s get organised. Let’s do this.
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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