Catalonia and Scotland

What Does The Catalan Independence Referendum Mean For Citizens, Activists, Living And Working In The Region?

“The referendum is going to be a real test of how far the Catalans are actually prepared to put themselves at risk in order to stand up to Madrid” — Kathryn Crameri

In 2014, Nearly two million (81% of 2.34 million) Catalans voted in favour of secession from Spain in what turned out to be a largely symbolic vote from a population of 7 million. This may sound small, but the 9N Catalan Consultation was an informal, democratic process run by volunteers which in turn caused many No voters to stay at home as opposed to getting out to cast their democratic prerogative.

A new vote is due to take place on October 1 in which people will be asked to decide whether secession from Spain is desirable via a Catalan referendum. Spain will — and is — doing all it can to prevent it, but this result will be a lot harder to ignore. Businesses are putting in bids to supply the 5,000 ballot boxes required (all the while being threatened for the provision of boxes or any other material pertaining to the referendum) in which will be an official, binding referendum, with all the proper guarantees including an official electoral role, electoral board, observers; complete transparency and the Catalan government has promised to implement the results. The idea is that it will be internationally recognised under these conditions to bear legitimacy.

So what’s changed? Not much, really, and everything at the same time. The citizens of Spain’s most vibrant region, Catalonia, are still ruled, overall, by an increasingly autocratic Madrid albeit under the new direction from Carles Puigdemont —the new President of Catalonia. Nationally, Podemos have ended the traditional two party system making real inroads into the Spanish parliament as their leader, Pablo Iglesias, won re-election as their secretary general earlier in 2017 whilst Ciudadanos, a party born in Catalonia on an anti-Catalan ticket, has enabled Mariano Rajoy — Catalonia’s nemesis and prime minister of Spain — to remain in power.

Spain was ruled by the military dictator, Francisco Franco, up until his death in 1975. The older generations remember the transition to democracy and the real sense of instability that that brings. By not supporting the referendum Madrid runs a high risk strategy by vowing to block the referendum.

Civil unrest and violence however is anathema for young people in Catalonia; the pro-indy community just want to vote. Jordi Cuixart from Omnium Cultural said on Sunday: “There are just not enough jails to hold all the people who insist on holding a referendum, it’s practically impossible.” Cuixart, implying that Spain will take any pro-indy Catalan to court on any pretext.

Miquel Strubell, a retired University lecturer living in Barcelona, said ↓

“Pro-Madrid fascist thugs demonstrated the other day outside the Esquerra Republicana head offices. There was no violence, but I wouldn’t put it past them: they look as if they’ve come straight out of a history book. The pro-indy camp is perfectly aware that violence will backfire seriously. That doesn’t mean that hot-headed youngsters couldn’t be provoked into action, of course.”

Above — Pep Guardiola, Who Was Invited To Read The Declaration (But Didn’t Write It): “We Are Here To Make It Clear That On October 1 We Will Vote In A Referendum To Decide Our Future.”

Why do many Catalans so desperately want out of Spain, is it just about self-determination and autonomy? Miquel adds ↓

“In my view, the current legal set-up, inside a hostile Spain, does not ensure the survival of the Catalans as a people in an increasingly globalised world. Catalonia needs the political tools, the instruments, that Spain’s centralist mentality and tradition refuses it.

“The other main reason is the humiliation inflicted upon the Catalans by the whole regional constitutional reform, from 2003, through to the Spanish parliament hacking up the bill in 2006, and the Spanish Constitutional court further maiming it (after a ratification by referendum!) in 2010.”

Corruption is also a problem, but not a main motivator for the indy movement. Where the UK and Spain differentiate in this context is the on the scale of corruption; the latter’s existing at all levels of government — whether it’s local, regional or state — it is massive; the expenses scandal in the UK is minuscule in comparison. Alex Salmond distanced himself from paralleling the 2014 Scottish referendum with 9N and Catalan nationalism as it was broadly thought to be attached to identity, but the truth is that it’s a lot more complex than that. I spoke with the estimable Liz Castro — a writer, who is active with the civil movement, Assemblea Nacional Catalana — a grassroots NGO founded in 2011 as an umbrella organisation, with a single goal — independence through democratic means — and whose massive demonstrations, from September 11 2012 on, have triggered the whole indy process ↓

“The 9N vote in 2014 started out as a non-binding “consultation” and was designed to be in accordance with Spanish law. It was convened in accordance with the law of non-referendum consultations that was approved on September 18 but didn’t go into effect until it was published on September 27, 2014, but was then itself immediately suspended by the Spanish Constitutional Court. The Catalan President decided that it was too difficult to go forward with this suspension and so decided to change it into a “participatory process” run by volunteers, basically a completely non-official, non-binding vote. The Constitutional Court ruled this illegal as well (and this past year sentenced the President and two ministers to various fines and bans from office for going through with it), but it went forward anyway, with a participation of 2.35 million people (including 300,000 no votes), with about a 40% turnout.”

Scotland’s situation marks little comparison. In the 2014 Scottish referendum young people turned out in force to support Independence, but more than 75% of pensioners voted No. Not even infinite supply of free prescriptions could mobilise our ever ageing population for voting Yes and yet this is still marketed by the SNP as one of their top election pledges (during the recent snap general election); it’s essentially a tinsel on the tree policy — an ethical, moral policy of course — but suggestive of a party that has run out of ideas. I asked Kathryn Crameri, an expert in Hispanic studies from the University of Glasgow, where Scotland is going wrong ↓

“I think first of all, a lot of the civil movement (in Catalonia) is based around people who are professionals to do with culture in the media, and that’s why it’s so successful, because they know what they’re doing when it comes to social media, communicating their ideas, subverting the established media by wrapping their message around that. In Scotland we haven’t seen the involvement of the professional and cultural media elite. As far as I can see that’s why the civil movement in Catalonia has been so successful because of the communication element. In Scotland you had people involved with the Yes campaign — starting to go out in the street doing leafleting etc. So there was the beginning of that but it’s how you capitalise on that. What the Catalans have got with the Assemblea is the combination of grassroots campaigning with the very powerful and professional direction of the media elites, and IT professionals as well. This combination just doesn’t exist in Scotland and you can’t simply invent these individuals to take it to the next level.”

Above, Catalan President, Carles Puigdemont, Announces The Catalan independence referendum will be held on October 1, 2017

Comments (25)

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  1. Redgauntlet says:

    ¡Visca Catalunya!

  2. Big Jock says:

    Scots are afraid of their own shadow. That’s our biggest issue.

    I have met many people who voted no due to the fear they have of breaking away from a dictatorial ruler. They say they are Scottish not British , but only voted no because they were terrified. So this is a form of serfdom. To hold a population in bondage using fear is the unhealthiest form of rule.

    The key for the independence movement is breaking that fear. We have to provide cognitive therapy on a mass scale. The problem is the media who continually tell Scots that their world will collapse if they get independence. Hence older people (Consumers) who rely on the printed press and BBC. Vote no due to misinformation and deliberate bias.

    Younger people, and I mean people under 60 ,are now tuned into social media. They hear the BBC and then go online to check out the facts and the truth.

    So the way to win independence is to take away the fear , but this can only be done by changing the media, or until the lazy old consumers expire.

    The Catalans are not afraid!

    1. bringiton says:

      Apart from the media,the main culprits of spreading the too poor narrative are the British Labour party who for selfish political ends continue to do so.
      Broon and friends’ mantra was the redistribution of wealth from England to Scotland and many still believe that.
      When it is pointed out that Norway,with fewer resources than Scotland,is now one of the wealthiest countries in the world,thanks to not having to hand over all it’s income to the London treasury,the response is,aye but they saved their money.
      !!!!!
      The lie that oil has run out and that we would have been bankrupt by now without the “support” of England needs to be addressed.
      The oil industry’s present estimates are for at least the same amount of oil still to come but left to London,there will be nothing to show for it in 30 years time.
      That,unfortunately,is when the sheep move onto the too stupid argument,we would blow it anyway so what’s the point.
      I am afraid that the cringe is buried too deep in the minds of many Scots and will require an earthquake event to eradicate it.
      Good luck Catalunya,you clearly haven’t been infected by the cringe!
      We need something equivalent to sheep dip to get rid of it here.

  3. milgram says:

    “Catalonia needs the political tools, the instruments, that Spain’s centralist mentality and tradition refuses it”
    I would like to hear in more detail what those tools are. From a distance it looks like the most interesting developments in Iberian politics are coming from the city-level governments: Ada Colau in Barcelona but also Ahora Madrid and a couple of other places where an alliance has taken power from parties on a democratically agreed platform.
    What parts of that are held back without Catalan independence? Off the top of my head there’s something around mortgages and debt forgiveness that maybe held back by the constitution or another level of government.
    Am I right in that? What else is there?

  4. milgram says:

    “Catalonia needs the political tools, the instruments, that Spain’s centralist mentality and tradition refuses it”
    I would like to hear in more detail what those tools are. From a distance it looks like the most interesting developments in Iberian politics are coming from the city-level governments: Ada Colau in Barcelona but also Ahora Madrid and a couple of other places where an alliance has taken power from parties on a democratically agreed platform.
    What parts of that are held back without Catalan independence? Off the top of my head there’s something around mortgages and debt forgiveness that maybe held back by constitution-level things.
    Am I right about that / what else is there?

    1. Redgauntlet says:

      Irene Monterto: a star is born….

      An absolutely sensational parliamentarian….

      1. milgram says:

        Yeah I enjoyed that the other day.
        Doesn’t answer my question though. And it’s not like Catalan politicians (Pujol) haven’t been robbing the public purse as well. Wasn’t that part of the reason that the (radically democratic left group) CUP refused to support an Independent front coalition unless Arturo Mas stood down?

        1. Marga says:

          Milgram, you ask lack of what power is holding Catalonia back. Catalonia basically has no control over its incme or infrastructures, including ports, airports, road & rail etc. Barcelona, second capital of Spain, is treated like a provincial centre, the whole region is bursting at the seams, kept on an ever-tighter political & financial rein.

          Incidentally, on Pujol, in spite of years of investigation, Pujol has never even been accused of corruption (misuse of public funds) never mind tried or found guilty. Pujol is a self-confessed tax cheat, nothing else (a hypocrite but not a criminal).

          I’m not very fond of Jim’s Country Study details – apart from being from 1988 (yes?), aren’t very subtle on the political implications of things like immigration.

          And Andres, of course you should take the 2014 referendum seriously – what other massive peaceful civic protest involving the organised but voluntary voting of two million and a quarter people, more than vote at the European elections, have you seen recently? You point out flaws, exactly why the current government wants to do it again, this time properly.

          Also I’d sadly say the jury is still out on the City Revolution. Under Colau Barcelona feels like a liner slowing down – debt is rising and she hasn’t got a handle (yet if ever) on how to harness activism & politics. Pointing in an interesting direction, but not getting there for now. They say she’s looking upstairs for real power.

          And is Catalonia boring? Madrid can afford to be more cool, it’s where the money is. Barcelona is on the front line not to mention the bread line and of course it shows.

          1. Jim Scott says:

            “Incidentally, on Pujol, in spite of years of investigation, Pujol has never even been accused of corruption (misuse of public funds) never mind tried or found guilty. Pujol is a self-confessed tax cheat, nothing else (a hypocrite but not a criminal).”
            ++++
            Now that is quite a mouthful for anyone with even a passing knowledge of post-Franco Catalonia to swallow.

            It is, in terms of credibility/ credulity, akin to those who would have us believe that, the odd knighthood apart, Sir Billy, like Sir Alex in his turn, is the self-same same person who enjoyed kicking a ball around the playground of St Peter’s Partick all those years ago.

            All that is missing is a repetition of the priceless quote from Marta Ferrusola i Lladós (in classic Anglo-Saxon terminology “Mrs Jordi Pujol Snr”) to a (totally useless but endlessly preening) investigating commission of the Catalan Parliament to the effect:

            “Rich? Our family is rich beyond the dreams of avarice, you say? Why I’ll have you know that we’re on our uppers. Every last one of us.” Though to be fair she didn’t add: Why our lawyers, our accountants and even our domestic help are on their uppers too !
            ++++

            “I’m not very fond of Jim’s Country Study details – apart from being from 1988 (yes?), aren’t very subtle on the political implications of things like immigration.”

            +++

            Whilst far from comprehensive, the quote I appended does, I claim, accurately and succinctly broach the thorny issue of the influence of incomers on the Catalan political, social and linguistic scene. To supplement it, in simple terms, I would suggest that the intra-Spanish incomers of the 50s and 60s mentioned there and their locally born children and grandchildren are in the broadest terms unsympathetic to Catalan independence. Much more so than the more numerous wave of extra-Spanish immigrants in the last 20 years.

            So Franco still rules; even from beyond the grave?

  5. James Mills says:

    One of the key differences between Catalonia and Scotland , touched on in the article but not emphasised , is the media . Catalans have their own independent TV and radio stations which support their message – we have BBC Scotland and the MSM , none of whom are inclined to support the SCottish independent movement .

  6. Big Jock says:

    James – Eaxactly!

    The unionists will not devolve broadcasting, as they know it will destroy their propaganda machine. That’s why Scottish Labour and the Tories are against it. It’s the unionists most powerful tool!

  7. Redgauntlet says:

    “·España va bien”….

    …the corruption cases mentioned by Irene Montero the other day, in the vote of no confidence in the utterly corrupt government of Rajoy….

    Caso Ópera: Pieza separada del Palma Arena sobre la irregularidades en la contratación del arquitecto Santiago Calatrava para que elaborase un anteproyecto para la construcción de un futuro palacio de la ópera en Baleares.

    Caso Orquesta: Sobre el supuesto amaño de concesiones de obra pública en una localidad gallega.

    Caso Over Márketing: El amaño de contratos públicos en Baleares en favor del empresario Daniel Mercado, implicado en varios casos de corrupción como financiador del PP.

    Caso Palma Arena: Sobre las irregularidades en la construcción de este pabellón deportivo. Jaume Matas es el principal acusado.

    Caso Patos: Investiga la trama de presunta corrupción en la adjudicación de contratos públicos, que suma medio centenar de políticos, y en el que está implicado el expresidente de la Diputación Provincial de Pontevedra, Rafael Louzán.

    Caso Piscina: Sobre la compra de unos terrenos para la instalación de la piscina municipal en una localidad de El Hierro.

    Caso Pokémon: Una trama de sobornos en varios ayuntamientos de Galicia que afecta a políticos de PP y PSOE.

    Casi Porto: Una trama de corrupción urbanística bajo el mandato de Esperanza Aguirre en la Comunidad de Madrid.

    Caso Rasputin: El pago con fondos públicos del Govern de los servicios del un club de alterne en Moscú. Le costó el cargo al gerente de Ibatur, Juan Carlos Alía.

    Caso Scala: Un “saqueo sistemático” de las arcas públicas, según la Fiscalía, a cargo de políticos del PP Balear. El líder del PP de Ibiza fue condenado a 16 años de cárcel.

    Caso Taula: Investiga la financiación ilegal del grupo municipal del PP en el Ayuntamiento de Valencia, en una trama que implicaba a Rita Barberá, y la concesión ilegal de contratos públicos a cambio de sobornos.

    Caso Terra Natura: La Generalitat valenciana perdonó a la Terra Natura 1,7 millones de euros a cambio de entradas, noches de hotel y derecho a usar el campo de golf.

    Caso Torres de Calatrava: El arquitecto valenciano Santiago Calatrava habría cobrado los 15 millones de euros por el diseño de un proyecto que nunca se llegó a realizar.

    Caso Torrevieja: El amaño de un contrato de basuras de 100 millones de euros.

    Caso Totem: El exalcalde del PP en Totana fue condenado por liderar una trama de corrupción y enriquecerse con las comisiones millonarias que solicitaba por impulsar proyectos urbanísticos.

    Caso Troya: El cobro de sobornos por parte de el exalcalde de Alhaurín el Grande.

    Caso Túnel de Sóller: El Supremo arhivó el caso por prescripción de los delitos, pero consideró probado que el expresidente balear Gabriel Canellas había cobrado sobornos de un constructor.

    Caso Turismo Joven: Sobre la gestión del Consorcio de Turismo Joven de Baleares. La Fiscalía acusó de cobro de sobornos, adjudicaciones de contratos millonarios sin concurso previo y gastos desmesurados en dietas y viajes a los implicados.

    Caso Umbra: Investiga la presunta corrupción urbanística. Alberto Guerra, exgerente de Urbanismo de Murcia, habría logrado un beneficio superior a 600.000 euros gracias a la recalificación de unos terrenos.

    Caso Uniformes: El exalcalde de Cádiz fue condenado porque el Ayuntamiento compraba los uniformes a la empresa de su mujer.

    Caso Zeta: Una supuesta trama de falsos cursos de formación y captación y gestión irregular de fondos públicos en Galicia.

    Caso Parques Eólicos: Investiga la concesión de parques eólicos a cambio de comisiones en Castilla y León.

    1. James Mills says:

      Que?

      1. milgram says:

        It’s a (partial) list of ongoing corruption cases involving Spain’s ruling PP. Details not that important (at least, I can’t be arsed translating) but covers all regions, all departments and big sums of money at all levels from the mayors of wee towns right to the top of the party.

        1. Redgauntlet says:

          Basically, the Catalán gripe with Madrid comes down to three things:

          A) They put in more money than they get back for the Spanish State.
          B) Their distinctive linguistic policy – using Catalan as a vehicular language in schools, so that, say, biology is taught in Catalan – was kyboshed by the Spanish Constitutional Court, something which severely pissed off the Catalans.
          C) They want to be recognized as a “nation” and not the mere “nationality” which is how the Spanish Constitution describes them.

          Basically, the inflexible, intransigent and lunatic Spanish right-wing have caused the problem. The Spanish right-wing are the most right wing right wing, in the history of the world.

          As for Catalonia being “the most vibrant” part of Spain, I would suggest that the author try going out for a night on the tiles in Madrid. It is a well known fact that the Madrnicks are by the far biggest party animals in the whole of Europe. The Catalan bourgeoisie are kind of boring in comparison.

          As for the referendum, well they have already had two “unofficial” referenda, I mean, how many can they call? It’s all a bit ridiculous in my opinion.

          1. Erik says:

            I’ve worked in both Barcelona & Madrid. Madrid felt like more my kinda place – relaxed, chilled. Great art too at the Reina Sofia.

    2. James Mills says:

      Que ?

  8. Alf Baird says:

    “In Scotland we haven’t seen the involvement of the professional and cultural media elite.”

    This is surely because many of ‘Scotland’s’ elite come from rest-UK, as historical census data also tells us, and culturally this group tends to have little interest in Scottish nationhood, usually quite the opposite. And of those Scots who do take up ‘elite’ posts in Scotland, the majority are from the privileged classes, hence they are also predominantly culturally unionist (remember the ‘Elitist Scotland’ report? http://www.davidhumeinstitute.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/ELITIST-SCOTLAND_FINAL-REPORT.pdf

    Put the two together and it is not that difficult to see why Scots exposure to our own Scottish culture/language or sensible/rational discussion about nationhood is restricted, limited, sanitised and distorted (i.e. oppressed).

    “..more than 75% of pensioners voted No”

    Census data tells us that over one million people came from rest UK to live in Scotland over the last 20 years, many to retire, but also across the professions, and students. This group also has a very high propensity, strongly culturally based/biased, to vote against Scotland’s independence.

    I would suggest these are at least two key differences (i.e. significant continual in-migration of No voters, incl. elites) between Scotland and Catalonia.

    1. Jim Scott says:

      “Census data tells us that over one million people came from rest UK to live in Scotland over the last 20 years, many to retire, but also across the professions, and students. This group also has a very high propensity, strongly culturally based/biased, to vote against Scotland’s independence.
      I would suggest these are at least two key differences (i.e. significant continual in-migration of No voters, incl. elites) between Scotland and Catalonia.”
      ++++++++++++++++++++++

      “The poverty of rural Spain led to a marked shift in population as hundreds of thousands of Spaniards moved out of the poor south and west in search of jobs and a better way of life. Between 1951 and 1981, more than 5 million Spaniards left Poor Spain, first for the prosperous economies of France and the Federal Republic of Germany, then for the expanding industrial regions of Spain itself. Nearly 40 percent, or 1.7 million, left Andalusia alone; another million left Castilla y Leon; and slightly fewer than 1 million left Castilla La Mancha.

      “By 1970 migrants accounted for about 26 percent of the population in Madrid, 23 percent in BARCELONA, and more than 30 percent in the booming Basque province of Alava. In the years after Franco’s death, …. some tens of thousands of these people returned to their provinces of origin. The majority of the migrants of the 1960s and the 1970s, however, were husbands and wives who had moved their families with the idea of staying for a long period, if not permanently. Thus, the great bulk of the migrants stayed on TO SHAPE THE CULTURE AND POLITICS of their adopted regions. In the long run, this may turn out to be THE MOST SIGNIFICANT IMPACT of the Spanish economic miracle on the country’s intractable regional disparities.”

      Source:
      http://www.country-data.com/cgi-bin/query/r-12983.html
      MY EMPHASIS ADDED; JS

      1. Alf Baird says:

        There is arguably a significant difference between poor economic migrants on the one hand, and elite professional, higher education students, and middle class retiree migrants on the other. There is also the possibility, moreso in the case of (colonial) elites, to distort/oppress/hinder as well as ‘shape’ the culture and politics of ‘adopted’ regions (in their own image).

        1. Jim Scott says:

          “There is arguably a significant difference between poor economic migrants on the one hand, and elite professional, higher education students, and middle class retiree migrants on the other. ”

          =====
          Could not agree more. With what you have written that is.

          Though not, I very strongly suspect, with what you think that you have written.

          Why do I say this ?

          ======

          “There is also the possibility, more so in the case of (colonial) elites, to distort/oppress/hinder as well as ‘shape’ the culture and politics of ‘adopted’ regions (in their own image).”

          This sentence, for me at least, highlights quite clearly that the meaning of words, even quite simple ones such as the verb to shape, is not your strong point.

          1. Alf Baird says:

            to “..‘shape’ the culture and politics of ‘adopted’ regions (in their own image).”

            Arguably this is the primary purpose of BBC Scotland, the unionist msm in general, and myriad ‘Scottish’ (sic) institutions run by colonialists (i.e. unionists).

      2. Abulhaq says:

        Scotland’s ageing population is a significant element whether due to lack of replacement or geriatric migration from elsewhere.
        Scots need to start getting amorous! If not we’ll have to absorb a few hundred thousands who’ll ‘fill the deficit’.

  9. Andres says:

    This article is skewed in so many aspects. First if all, the 2014 poll cannot be taken seriously. Among many defects perhaps the most serious is that there was no electoral roll, so that many people were able to vote more than once. A neighbour of mine voted three times in separate polling stations, once in Castelldefels and twice in Barcelona while the husband of one of my wife’s friends voted twice. At the very least I would reccomend stamping the back of a voter’s with an indelible mark, as is done in some countries.

  10. Ottomanboi says:

    Amateurism: It is mark of just how British the Scottish national movement is. The Brits love the plucky amateur. So easily derailed. The ‘Latin’ flair is conspicuously lacking here. Leafleting! what century are we in? Demonstrations! 10 thousand plus? 100 thousand at the very least is where we should aim. The Scots appear provincial and ham-fisted. Not actually a major grass roots threat to the establishment. Are we serious or just playing a game?
    Culturally we appear so English. Scots and Gaelic rarely appear in propaganda media. Why? frightened of our own cultural shadow?
    The SNP with its petty bourgeois worldview has much to do with this cautiousness, this reticence. The national movement needs to widen beyond its dull influence.

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