Playing Dominoes

mX0xuOz_gZXuyK4x7CqAjhQIn April, during a speech at the Brookings Institute in Washington, Lord Robertson of Port Ellen laid-out his theory of global politics.

“The United Kingdom”, he said, was “an anchor of the Western world” and any attempt to break it up or undermine its territorial integrity would be “cataclysmic” for “existing global balances” (see here).
Worried that his American audience hadn’t quite grasped the subtext of his argument, Lord Robertson cut to the chase: the “forces of darkness”, he explained, with all the intellectual subtlety of a panzer tank, would “simply love” a Yes vote in the upcoming referendum on Scottish independence.
Robertson’s intervention was, of course, tremendously embarrassing for the Better Together campaign – no-one expected Project Fear to get quite so hysterical quite so quickly. And yet, as we discovered this week, Robertsonian logic is alive and well in the referendum debate.

On Monday, The Daily Record published an extract from Gordon Brown’s new book, My Scotland, Our Britain, in which the former prime minister posed the following questions:

“Could this historic nation of just five million people make history again – leading a new wave of secessionist movements that strike at the heart of the advanced industrial world? Could it be the pacemaker for nationalist breakaways in Spain, Belgium and eastern Europe and for a thousand liberation movements in the developing world?”

Then, on Wednesday, Sweden’s foreign minister, Carl Bildt, told The Financial Times that he believed the “Balkanisation of the British Isles” would set-off a series of “unforeseen chain reactions”. “What are the implications for the Irish question?”, Bildt asked. “What happens in Ulster?”

What happens in Ulster? It is, to be fair, a legitimate question. But the answer is less dramatic than Bildt seems to think.
I spend quite a lot of time in Belfast. On my last visit there in May, I spoke to dozens of people from across the political divide about Scottish independence and its “implications” for Northern Ireland. None of them – literally, not one – believed Scotland’s departure from the UK had the potential to reignite the Troubles.
That’s not to say loyalists aren’t opposed to the SNP and upset by the prospect of independence. They are. Nor that republicans wouldn’t be delighted with a Yes vote. They would. But Ireland’s future isn’t being decided in September, Scotland’s is, and the obstacles that currently stand in the way of Irish reunification – the emergence, over the last ten or twenty years, of a northern Catholic middle-class; austerity and economic crisis in the South; the indifference of the Dublin political class to the all-Ireland project – won’t suddenly disappear if Scots vote Yes.

The situation in Catalonia also operates according to its own dynamics, as I discovered last year when I travelled to Barcelona to see how the debate over Catalan independence was developing.

Granted, many Catalan nationalists admire the SNP and hope to emulate the party’s success in securing a legally-binding independence referendum. But the recent growth of Catalan nationalism has nothing to do with Scotland or the break-up of Britain. Support for secession only really took off in 2010, when the Spanish Supreme Court ruled the Catalan Statue of Autonomy – a document asserting Catalonia’s right to determine its own constitutional status – illegal under Spanish law.

Since then, popular demands for Catalan self-government have grown in line with Madrid’s increasingly belligerent approach to the issue of Catalan autonomy, while regional and sub-national fault-lines in Spanish politics have been aggravated by the economic crisis. (As net contributors to the Spanish treasury, the Catalans, in particular, resent the massive spending cuts being imposed by the central government in Madrid.)

So the idea that Scottish independence will trigger some kind of secessionist domino effect across Europe, with all the big multinational states collapsing, one after the other, into lots of separate, smaller political units, is not, in my view, very plausible.

Even if an independent Scotland were to gain quick access to major international institutions, including NATO and the EU, there is no guarantee it would smooth the path for other breakaway nationalisms. Global organisations are likely to treat each new membership application on its merits: as a partner in trade and politics, Scotland will be less problematic for the EU than Kosovo.

But what’s truly depressing about the rhetoric coming from Robertson, Brown and Bildt (and now Barack Obama) is how fundamentally conservative it is. Brown suggests independence could be a “pacemaker … for a thousand liberation movements in the developing world”. In what sense, exactly, would that be a bad thing and why should progressives oppose it?

Labour politicians, however, have form in this regard. As Tom Nairn recalls, when Boris Yeltsin visited the European Parliament in 1991 he was confronted by one Janey Buchan MEP who, coming from a country “plagued by nationalism”, demanded to know why the soon-to-be Russian president hadn’t done more to protect the Soviet system from separatists.

I can think of other, more recent instances in which the Labour Party has failed to live up to basic liberal standards in global affairs. For everyone’s sake, let’s hope the No camp comes to its senses by September.

Comments (44)

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  1. Tony Philpin says:

    Logically, and in my naivety, I still struggle to understand what possible reasons allegedly democratic politicians like Mr Obama and Mr Brown have in rubbishing the rights of self determination ? Then with a slap to the side of the head I wake up and realise that the whole idea of political democracy has been much abused by every power hungry elitist whose justification of ‘public service’ is a thin rationale for their own self aggrandisement.
    Real democracy means spreading decision making to the level at which the most people can participate and the referendum is a recognition that a ‘democratic deficit’ is alive and well in North Britain.
    At one time I hoped the idea of ‘subsidiarity’ would really apply in the EU but it has simply been another suit of emperors new clothes.
    More dominoes please !

  2. Alasdair Frew-Bell says:

    If our “secession” did motivate liberation movements worldwide, Turkic and Tibetan peoples in China for example, how could we as a people pursuing our own agenda be held responsible? This is the theoretical physics of a butterfly flapping its wings causing cyclonic turbulence taken to the ultimate in fantasy. These overzealous self-styled protectors of the universe would no doubt squash the unwitting creature. Do they plan such a fate for us? What exactly are they really afraid of? Their own extinction maybe?

  3. JGedd says:

    Mr Brown’s fear seems to be an outbreak of democracy. That’s what gives away the true agenda of the internationalist elite. They aren’t interested really in the populations of their own individual countries but in using power groupings of like-minded governments to control those populations. They are internationalist in the sense that they have goals and interests in common with those who rule – these are their peers, not the ruled.

    Politicians are basically lazy. They want an easily managed and compliant electorate who are helpless to oppose them. They therefore feel more comfortable with a cartel of corporatists like themselves and that’s why they are unhappy with nationalism. By definition, you can’t make out of many diverse entities a common herd.

    Noam Chomsky said many years ago, regarding US politics that people assumed that the American body politic was hostile to socialism, because it said so; his reading of Americam foreign policy was that it was nationalist movements which really worried the US corporate state more than anything.

    1. Alasdair Frew-Bell says:

      One capitalist who occasionally comments here said that for business he preferred a level playing field; what the UK currently is. An independent Scotland would presumably make for bumpy terrain. America is hot on greater European integration and continued UK membership (its atlanticist trojan horse?) for possibly the same reasons. Capitalists are tolerant of authoritarian systems, the larger the better, because they provide the requisite political stability and “levelness” they require. They hate bothersome minorities, human rights protesters and cultural diversity. An independent Scotland would be a hassle. A splash of tartan jarring the monochromatic design. They want one world “internationalism” as long as it speaks their language, thinks as they do and craves their “lifestyle”. Dare to think outside the parameters and you’re for it. The recent response to our case has been rather instructive.

      1. setondene says:

        Excellent post Alasdair. Couldn’t agree more with you on the Anglo-global project. It automatically positions me as being against the global Anglosphere because the clowns that drive that project cannot tolerate cultural diversity.

  4. joseph O Luain says:

    Mr Frew-Bell is certainly on-form today. More power to him!

  5. yerkitbreeks says:

    I guess one description of what we’re trying to achieve in Scotland could be described by G Brown as “liberation”.

    The liberation we seek is a release from the Anglo-American neoliberal / plutocracy model.

  6. manandboy says:

    This is compulsory reading for anyone interested in the role of ethnic Irish traditional Labour voters in the Referendum.

    A clip: “This (Irish) community is undoubtedly less Irish, less working-class and less Catholic: sometimes dramatically so.
    It is in turn more Scottish, more affluent and more secular.”

    “Many also see their former favoured Labour Party as currently less concerned with the poor and marginalised, with too many inferior quality careerists representing it, and being much less caring and more self-serving than ever.”

    Dr Joe Bradley is a senior lecturer at Stirling University. For more details

  7. Clootie says:

    Another external reason for voting NO ( although I think it nonsense). I’m still waiting for the positive reason for the union. Instead we have time spent on another negative story.

    Should America have dropped their fight for Independence because the French may consider a revolution 13 years later?
    Should Norway have remained under Swedish rule in 1905 in case it gave others ideas?

    50 nations have achieved independence since the Second World War but somehow one of the oldest nations in the world leaving a union is going to destabilise world peace.

    I’m getting sick and tired of hearing why we can’t or why we shouldn’t seek independence. Why is it so difficult to tell a positive case for the union…..and please- spare me the sound bites which are negative statements often with a threat classed as “a positive” – you can keep the pound / sharing risk and reward / we can kill more people together / seat at the big table / we will be in or out of the EU together….blah!blah!

  8. qzchambers says:

    View from Greater England : I think that Mr Brown doesn’t go far enough. Given the tremendous success of the union of England and Scotland, we should be looking at enlarging this union to include other small wealthy countries like Denmark and Norway. They have populations which are small enough so that their MPs wouldn’t make too much of a difference to votes in Westminster. We would need to persuade them to accept Westminster sovereignty over international and defence issues (perhaps a new role for Mr Brown?) but if Scotland can swallow it for so long for the sake of being “better together”, then surely these other countries will in time see the obvious advantages of union with a large country like England.

    What are these advantages you might ask? Well, with these extra countries in tow, we could perhaps ask for an extra half a seat on the UN security council because we will be more important. We would have more troops to send into international conflicts. We could share the costs of Trident with the new countries in the union. We could give those Eurocrats in Brussels an even stiffer telling off and sort them out properly. We would have bigger economies of scale so for example, the UK government could get a better deal on Danish Lego and think of the extra oilfields that Norway could contribute to safeguarding our energy supplies for decades to come! I could go on. It really is a no-brainer. Why hasn’t anyone thought of this before?

    1. Ian Kirkwood says:

      Steady on there old chap, you mean we could start to rebuild the Empire? Super, when do we start?

      1. qzchambers says:

        Just as soon as we sort out those annoying chaps in Scotland who incidentally I’ve heard from reliable sources are becoming increasingly like Kim Jong-Il. We right-thinking people have long suspected that independence movements would soon head down the slippery slope to this sort of thing. Come on Mr Salmond, it’s time you stopped this nonsense!

  9. Robert Peffers says:

    Robertson’s outbutst is nothing more than an outpouring of childlike fear for his own future situation. Somewhat akin to the child’s cry for a nightlight to save itself from the terrors of the dark and the unknown, “Ghosties and ghoulies and lang-leggit beasties an things whit gang bump in the nicht”. George was always the rather childish numptie.

  10. Iain says:

    Good article, but what on earth is that reference to Ulster? There are nine counties in Ulster, three of them in the Republic of Ireland and the other six constituting Northern Ireland. No-one wants to be pedantic, but words and names matter. Ulster isn’t Northern Ireland nor vice versa, and I don’t think counties Monaghan, Cavan and Donegal will be immediately affected by whatever Carl Bildt has to say about Scottish independence. Why would they – they are part of an independent country already. Two thirds of Ulster is independent.

    1. MBC says:

      I gather that after the Good Friday agreement to power-sharing most folks in Northern Ireland wish to remain in the UK, that’s Catholics as well as Protestants. Bildt is completely ignorant. And as for Obama, ‘the UK seems to have worked pretty well’ it was an utter disaster in Ireland! Until 1998.

  11. Iain says:

    One third (oops – only got O Grade arithmetic)

  12. James Dow A voice from the diaspora says:

    What’s wrong with a little bit of Balkanisation in Britain you know the odd judicious assassination just to focus attention on reality and to prove to the born to rule people that they are actually mortal and vulnerable . where do you go to resign from the Old Eton Boys Club before the balloon goes up?

  13. Iain Hill says:

    To answer the Broon’s question – hope so!

  14. Andrew Skea says:

    For me, this article and nearly all of the replies miss one important point. In a more fragmented world how do we foresee the west (free world or what ever we want to call it) standing up for those round the world who are oppressed. Can anyone give me any examples of a coalition of smaller countries taking any initiative and making any progress (on issues such as the current problems in Ukraine). Even the EU has largely failed to agree and implement any foreign policy. My worry is that in the absence of powerful nations in the west to take initiatives and to pose a threat to aggression by bullies we will see increased threats to the liberty that we take for granted.

    You may suggest that it does not matter if the UK is neutered, since the US will still be there to stand up to Russian, or China, or North Korea – but really do we want a world where there is only one leader – and do we despise our own political and military influence so much? Do you think the US better represents our views? Do you think the EU is better able to represent our views? Or does Putin better represent our views? Let’s get serious for a minute, in our uncertain world where poverty and war are still killing far too many people, where and how do we want to exert our influence?

    I accept that we do not all agree with our elected leaders at all times (is there any democracy that does?) but surely we want our MPs putting forward our values and our influence in Westminster. Westminster is without doubt one of the top two most influential parliaments in the world. There are Scottish MPs of all political flavours in Westminster – if they (59 / 650) are not exerting the influence in the way we would like now, amongst mostly like minded MPs from rUK then how do we expect our influence to be any greater in any other forum – or should we just look after ourselves and let everybody else look after themselves.

    To all of the questions I have posed above, I think the Westminster parliament is were we want to be. This does not mean that I agree with every decision is makes, but I want my views expressed in this forum.

    1. MBC says:

      Yes. The coalition is called NATO, the most successful military alliance the world has ever seen.

      1. Clootie says:

        Andrew didn’t actually want an answer.
        He was just doing his BT sound bite. The unionists still think they are in an empire.

      2. Andrew Skea says:

        But NATO is driven by US and UK, you fail to dispute my point.

      3. MBC says:

        And NATO wouldn’t want Scotland in? US wouldn’t want Scotland in? England wouldn’t want Scotland in? Think about it logically. Trident will remain in Scotland until arrangements can be made for transfer to England. Until that is done, England’s nuclear weapon would remain under Scottish control. Would England really not want Scotland in NATO? We would be a situation where Scotland would be in the nuclear club and England wouldn’t.

    2. MBC says:

      Westminster controls us, keeps us in check, but on the international stage is not a significant player but for the permanent seat UK has on the UN Security Council. That’s what all this is about, yet it can be negotiated amongst Britain’s allies and anyway, I think the future of the UK permanent seat is under threat as we are overtaken by other developing nations. Cameron cannot afford an aircraft carrier. There is a distinct possibility Trident won’t be replaced. UK is a busted flush. The reasons for this are largely down to stupidity. They have the economic model all wrong. That’s why I want out. We could have a far stronger economy and a far greater defensive capacity in an independent Scotland, that is, if we wanted to. An independent Scotland needs to bolster its maritime security, we have 85% of the coastline of the UK.

      1. Andrew Skea says:

        The threats to our interests are thousands of miles away, not on our beaches or oven territorial waters.

    3. Abulhaq says:

      Cant believe how politically naïve your comment is. Intervention by the morally self-guarding world-policemen of the West is at the root of much of the misery and disorder in Africa, Middle East, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The British, and I Do include Scots adventurers, unashamedly exploited their “possessions”. What infrastructure or rule of law, English law, they provided was for the convenience and the furtherance of imperial interests only. The history of India for example reveals the wealthy subcontinent paid for its own subjection. Exploiting ethnic, religious and caste differences to good effect in the psychology of suppression. Small wonder Churchill took the “loss” of the Jewel in the Crown so badly. Getting people to act against their better interests by dividing them, creating suspicion and fear and making them turn to an external “benefactor” is still the stuff of these sphere of influence games. Next time you hear of mayhem in Iraq or Syria or Nigeria remember who first drew the lines in that blood soaked sand.

      1. Abulhaq says:


      2. Andrew Skea says:

        And i can’t believe how naive you are. Salmond did not want us to intervene in Serbia – and to leave Bosnia to it’s fait. Much of our influence is to avoid military actions – for example our response to Ukriane crisis.

      3. Abulhaq says:

        The humanitarian consequences of the end of the political union of the so-called south Slavs ought to have been the unique responsibility of the UN. Nato’s involvement, for example the bombing of Belgrade destroying the Chinese embassy in the process, simply poured fuel on the ethnic fire. Muslims in particular became a target because of negative historical associations with the former Turkish rulers. Historic conflicts between Orthodox and Catholic also resurfaced as did the Albanian claims to Kosova which Serbia considered was being “cleansed” of ethnic Serbs. This was not a simple go-in-and-bast-em scenario but a quite complex situation needing skills other than the gun, of which there were plenty in situ, to attempt to resolve. Ukraine is also complicated by ethnic and religious issues but there is no direct intervention because Russia is a strong nuclear power, similarly N Korea, simply a further destabilizing Nato game of shadows on the periphery. Salmond was right, as he has been proved right regarding the ongoing unresolved problems, for the US, of Iraq, Syria, Libya, Afghanistan and the rest. Why, despite that, he is such an advocate of Nato membership does seem perplexing.

      4. MBC says:

        Sorry, you have lost me. My comment was about NATO, not the former British Empire.

    4. qzchambers says:

      I guess a distinctively Scottish contribution to debates on international issues will be heard more clearly from an independent Scotland than from a small share of MPs in Westminster. I’m English so don’t feel the injustice so keenly – but just how long can Westminster expect Scotland to toe the UK line on international issues that it feels so differently about? Scotland doesn’t owe it to the world to be united with its much larger neighbour for geo-political reasons. If the English / rUK majority still wants to pursue a highly interventionist foreign policy, then so be it. If the Scottish majority want to pursue a much less interventionist foreign policy, then so be it. That’s what democracy is all about. We make our choices and deal with the consequences.

      1. Alasdair Frew-Bell says:

        precisely! it is possible to be internationalist, cosmopolitan and care about the world etc without owing allegiance to international organisations that have a particular ideological perspective such as, for example, Nato which currently exploits fear of Russian expansionism to rally new members round the flag. In the eye of this beholder we ought to not bestow our “favors” promiscuously.

    5. Hugh Wallace says:

      I would argue that the world is a more dangerous place because of the large nations such as China, Russia and the USA and we should all be doing our utmost to split them up into smaller nation states. The idea that the UK is a militarily feared intentionally is almost laughable. I don’t mean that as a dismissal of the quality of our troops (who are among the best in the world) but the shear size of our military infrastructure is not adequate to impose force anywhere in the world except as part of an integrated allied structure such as NATO. Our military ‘might’ is enough to keep Argentina in check (partly because theirs is now much reduced since 1982) but our influence on the likes of Ukraine is non-existent in a military sense. And not that we did spectacularly well the last time we went warring in that region…

      1. MBC says:

        But since we (UK) got rid of the Harriers we have aircraft carriers that can only take helicopters. The truth is that UK could not take on Argentina now. That’s why I say UK is a busted flush. But Skea still thinks there is virtue in being a colony of England. I could just about manage to become a British patriot if I thought there was any Dunkirk spirit left in Blighty. But there isn’t. Cameron and Milliband aren’t British patriots.

  15. MBC says:

    I was in the USA in April when Robertson made these damaging remarks which made the newspapers there and have alarmed conservatives. On the other hand Democrats seemed to be broadly in support of Scottish independence which makes Obama’s comments all the more surprising. I wonder what he actually knows of Scotland? And how far he was just trying to support his ally Cameron?

    But one thing we have to get straight: the UK is well-liked in international circles. It is regarded as one of the ‘good guys’ sharing as Obama says, the same ‘strategic vision’ as the US.

    So it won’t do to diss these folks but rather try to convince them that this is a domestic matter and won’t affect the ‘strategic vision’ in defence terms or in support of democracy.

    I really struggle to answer why Robertson has done as well as he has. He really isn’t the brightest star in Labour’s constellation.

  16. Douglas says:

    Jamie is right about the Catalan situation, though the Spanish Constitutional court did not overturn the entire devolution bill, which Zapatero had delivered and the Catalans had voted overwhelmingly for, only certain clauses of it.

    For example, the preamble of that home rule bill states that “Catalonia is a nation”, which was seen to be incompatible with the Spanish Constitution which describes the Catalans as one of Spain’s “nationalities”.

    If that sounds like hair splitting, then it is. But written constitutions, it’s worth pointing out, also come with their inconveniences, namely, reactionary judges being appointed to the Constitutional Court to block any prospect of change. The rise of Catalan nationalism can be laid squarely at the door of the right wing parties and media in Madrid, and their lackeys in the Constitutional Court.

    But I think there is a need to articulate very clearly the differences between Scotland and Catalonia, and I would not question the status of Catalonia as a nation for a moment. Let’s remember those differences which make any comparison of the two cases somewhat dubious:

    A) There never was a nation state in history called Catalonia. There was the Kingdom of Aragon, which was much bigger than what we call Catalonia today..
    B) There was no international binding Treaty signed between Castille and Catalonia comparable to the Union of 1707.
    C) There is no such thing as Catalan Law, like there is Scots Law.
    D) We do not have a linguistic situation comparable to the situation in Catalonia which can only generate disappointment for some it seems to me. I understand an immigrant from Madrid or Rome or London to Catalonia saying, “I don’t want to have to learn Catalan and work in Catalan or send my children to school in Catalan. I would rather they learn Spanish”. By the same token, I find the argument offered by Catalans – if Catalan is not spoken in Catalonia, then where is it to be spoken? – utterly irrefutable.
    E) There are territorial questions which will not be solved by Catalan independence as it is being proposed. Some of the pro independence Catalan parties, particularly on the Left,want to see all of the Pays Catalans included in a new Catalan State. That includes areas in France, areas in Valencia, and the Balearic Islands too. They speak Catalan on one side of Sardinia too by the way.
    F) Spanish democracy is nowhere near as robust as British democracy. In the entire history of Spain, there have been no more than four of five decades of democracy. The ghosts from the Civil War still linger, and the ghosts of the victims of ETA and the Spanish State’s dirty war still linger. You are talking about a much more volatile political climate.

    There is not an independence movement in the world with the same credentials as the Scottish independence movement, not one that I know of. But still…

    Visca Catalunya!!!

  17. Douglas says:

    By the way, I would say that you can see the political naivety and immaturity – and I’m sorry if that sounds patronizing, but it’s how I see it – in the decision of Mas and co to hold a referendum – una consulta they are calling it – regardless of the fact that Madrid will not allow it.

    Of course, I think the Catalans have the right to hold a referendum, but I don’t think anything is to be gained by holding an unofficial one. It will lack democratic legitimacy, because many people will not bother voting, particularly on the side of NO, as it has not been agreed beforehand with Madrid. And there is no democratic process. Again, I insist, for all the failings and negativity of the campaign, we do have a democratic process which has international, legitimacy. That is vital.

    Mas is riding on the tide of events, or better said he is being swept along on the tide of events. A few years ago, Mas was not in favour of independence. There is no leader in the history of the SNP who that could be said about.

    Of course Madrid is being intransigent, and there is no obstinacy in the world like Spanish obstinacy, and the current Spanish government is one of the worst in the history of European democracy. But the Catalans ought to look to Scotland, but not the process here and now, but the past and the many occasions in which the SNP and Scottish civil society knew how to wait. I mean, the Home Rule Bill which was scuttled by the First World War, the millions of signatures which MacCormick had with the Scottish Covenant back in the 50’s, the patience and stoicism shown in the face of the gross and totally outrageous policies foisted on Scottish society and democracy by Thatcher.

    I’ve said it before, we knew how to wait, and patience is perhaps the most underrated virtue.

    As Cervantes says in “Don Quixote” when things are not working out “Paciencia y a barajar” or otherwise said, “Patience, and shuffle the pack of cards”….

    …the climate will change, the objective situation will change, suddenly you are dealt a good hand of cards to play.,…

    I believe the Catalans are on a road to nowhere with their consulta and, notwithstanding the sympathy I feel for Catalonia, and the fact that two of my favourite twentieth century poets are Catalans and Catalan culture is one of the most brilliant and overlooked in Europe today, we should be wary of getting too close there.

    1. Alasdair Frew-Bell says:

      There is no doubt that a Yes here would give a psychological fillip to the Catalan cause. Delving into history, when the Parti Québecois was on the verge of a hoped for triumph the SNP was anything but a disinterested observer. The Yes campaign must take particular care not to reprise that disappointment. Patience and stoicism I feel are overrated qualities. Choose ones moment and engineer that moment. Hang around too long and boredom sets in. Thankfully we have just another 100 days to wait.

      1. Douglas says:

        Greetings Frew-Bell. I don’t doubt that some will compare Scotland to Catalunya and vice-versa, my doubt is why anybody here would feel the need to do that. We gain nothing from it.

        And most of the people who will make that comparison will probably not know much about Spanish and Catalan history, politics and culture. It’s knee-jerk nationalism. and there are plenty nationalisms out there that I would never support – anybody who was at the indie rally and march en Edinburgh back in September last year will know what I mean. I ain’t no leder-hosen nationalist, man…

        I am neither for nor against Catalan independence per se. I have lived in both Barcelona and Madrid and so I am well versed in both sides of the argument. I admire both cultures and the people on either side of the fence.

        The fact remains that a unilaterally declared referendum is not going to get you anywhere. It won’t be recognized internationally.

        And when I say that the objective situation will change if you can learn patience and know to how to wait, well it just did at the Euro elections in Spain. The leader of the Spanish Socialist Party, Rubalcaba just resigned; the PP won but lost millions of votes; and most importantly, the new Left, in the form of various smaller parties like Podemos, took almost 20% of the vote.

        Conceivably, the next General Elections in Spain could deliver a grand coalition of the Left which would then reform the Constitution, a reform which would include the right of the Catalans and Basques and Galicians to hold a binding referendum. That way would be the smart way forward for Catalan nationalism it seems to me,

        In the wider picture and the unfathomable motions of human history, waiting ten, twenty or thirty years for independence is nothing if you truly believe in your cause….

      2. Alasdair Frew-Bell says:

        Douglas…..temperamentally i am not inclined to wait…..for anything. Agree there are some “nationalisms” Golden Dawn etc you would not touch with the proverbial but the Catalan versions do not seem to me to present problems for us. The Spanish state is not willing to grant a referendum on Catalan or Basque or Galician independence because it considers such an initiative a threat to national integrity. In their shoes would you? Salmond was lucky to get approval from Cameron as many in his party would not have sanctioned it. Osborne certainly would not. Many even now consider it has “dubious legality” and in the event of a yes might attempt an overturn or seek draconian redress. As the British state is governed by the precepts of English law we would do well to be prepared for a spat.

  18. Douglas says:

    This for that blustering jedi, Lord Robertson, that notorious warmonger…; )

    By the way, Luke Skywalker just came out for YES….

  19. Douglas says:

    Frew-Bell, if you actually look at the Edinburgh Agreement it is a pretty flimsy document and in fact no more than a Memorandum of Understanding. So I agree with you that we are fortunate it all went so smoothly. I think Salmond is a national hero for that alone, he played a blinder. He will go down in history as one of the great Scots for that alone.

    No matter the result in September, Salmond and the SNP have put Scotland back on the front pages of the international press for the first time in 300 years. It’s a remarkable achievement, and to people my age, that is people over 40 who can remember being told again and again that there would never even be a Scottish parliament, who can remember Thatcher coming up here to deliver the Sermon on the Mound, especially so.

    I think young voters aren’t aware of just how far we have travelled. They don’t know that all the lies and the fear campaign being peddled by Better Together were already peddled decades ago against Devolution and the Scottish parliament. They pulled out every trick in the book to stop Devolution, but all they did was postpone it for a few decades. It will be the same with independence if we lose in September.

    Alas, I don’t agree with you about patience and impatience, certainly not in the so often tragic case of Spain. In the words of the Catalan poet, Jaime Gil de Biedma, “De todas las historas de la Historia, sin duda la mas triste es la de Espana / porque termina mal” or otherwise said, “Of all the histories of History, without doubt the saddest story is that of Spain, because it ends badly”.

    And so it has done so many times, and there are more important things than national independence movements.

    Democracy is not just the “what” but also the “how”, which is why Darling and Robertson should hang their heads in shame for opening a box of dirty tricks which have the potential to damage all Scottish voters, right across the YES/ Devo Max/ No spectrum and bring into disrepute the whole referendum.

    Utterly shameful and pathetic behaviour.

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