Saving the Union

Will Mariano Rajoy and some unlikely regional party functionary be celebrating in three years time like Theresa May and Colonel Davidson do here?

It seems unlikely.

Catalonia is not Spain but Catalonia is not Scotland either.

The Spanish state sent in thugs and riot police. The British state sent in Eddie Izzard and John Barrowman.

As we live vicariously through the transformation of Spain, the mesmerising parallels (and huge differences) between our indyref and the Catalans are worth exploring.

State violence – as we’ve seen in Ireland, through the Miner’s Strike, the policing of protests, attacks on the travelling community and the recent Spycops case, is not something Britain is shy of. Ask Jean Charles de Menezes. Ask Joy Gardner. Ask Sheku Bayoh. Ask Ian Tomlinson.

It’s just not what they employed in our referendum in 2014. They didn’t need to.

The single violent incident of the Scottish referendum (Kirkcaldy albumen smattering aside) came from a lumpen loyalist mob acting under no other orders than their own hyper-nationalism.

If there’s a sweetness for those of us who saw Rajoy – frequently carted out to denounce Scotland’s European prospects – nothing is certain. Spain may be tonight a pariah state, but it still has powerful allies. The European elite tend to stick together.

The Rule of Law

If the British government didn’t send in the troops or the militarised police, they might have. And the naked contempt shown by many Unionist politicians and commentators for the use of violence against peaceful citizens in a European country in the 21C, is shocking, and does nothing to dispel the idea that they could stand idly by if the same happened here.

Labour’s Sean Duffy said:

Labour’s Duncan Hothersall said:

while Iain Martin wrote:

It’s quaint that those who bleated about ‘No Borders’ and ‘internationalism’ now look the other way as women are beaten in the street.

In Hothersall’s example it expresses just an astonishing state of deference. Those who protested gay rights, women’s rights or trade union rights all acted ‘illegally’. So did Rosa Parks. So did Nelson Mandela.

It’s just the worst aspect of unquestioning British quietism transposed onto the Spanish crisis.

But it’s not good enough for us to virtue signal our international solidarity, and there is no real sense yet of where this leaves European democracy, other than undermined and ridiculed. Nor is it clear where post-Brexit Britain lies in the wake of the Catalan referendum.

Imagine being a pro-Brexit recently liberated ex-pat Brit abroad retired in Spain. Omelette and Chips at the Flag and Castle, golfing with Dave.

How you feeling watching your timeline? That women having her fingers broken doesn’t go down so well with the sangria does it? Or maybe it does.

Oh, and in case it needs to be said, and it probably does, the case for UDI for Scotland is not made by the Catalan experience.

There will be many in the nationalist community who will be inspired by the Catalan referendum – and their courage in the face of violence should be an inspiration to us all. But the idea that you can just grab power with a quick and botched UDI here in Scotland is pure-Unicornism.

It may well be that the violence of the Spanish state has swung the referendum in Catalonia’s favour.

If anyone has any doubts which side lacks ‘legitimacy’ they need their head examined.

But Catalonia is not Spain and Catalonia is not Scotland either.

Maximum solidarity to the people of Catalonia, and the experience has once again exposed the anti-democratic streak that runs through elements of Unionism in Britain where deference to the rule of law would trump an expression of democracy.

As Simon Tisdall writes (‘Ripples from Catalan referendum could extend beyond Spain’):

“Previous polls suggest most Catalans do not support independence from Madrid. But not unlike Scotland, a majority does appear to question the legitimacy of a distant central government that speaks a different language, hands down political diktats, levies unfair taxes and allegedly gives back less than it takes.

The attempt by Rajoy and his ministers to depict the Catalan independence movement as belonging to the wider, recent phenomenon of rightwing European nationalism, xenophobia and populism was an obvious smear. Many Catalans distrust rule by Madrid. That does not mean they have renounced values of tolerance and inclusion. Quite the opposite, as any visitor to Barcelona knows.”

This was the attempt by Theresa May in the election when she compared the Yes movement to ISIS, with barely anyone blinking.

What has happened is the inherent violence of state power as been exposed. The failure, inadequacy and narrowness of the Spanish government has been shown to the world. They have lost many friends but watch as the European Union stands together in silence to support the suppression of democracy in their own countries.

Neither Rajoy nor May saved any union.

Power Surge

Just as the Tory party seem to have simultaneously discovered devolution, the under 50s and that some people that live outside London, as if they’ve just been brought round from a self-induced coma, the continuity is far more important than the Freak Show of replacement candidates. The commentariats love-in with Ruth Davidson as a credible leadership candidate is as delusional as when people used to watch the West Wing because watching the real White House in action was too painful.

Examining Ruth Davidson’s conference speech is worth a few minutes aside from her cheerleaders. The idea that she represents a benevolent strain, a variant of Toryism that is ‘One Nation’ and a kinder more moderate version from others around the cabinet table doesn’t bear examination.

Her speech is littered with grandiose claims and delusions. She urges that we be:

“a beacon in the world. To help those that are hurting and fight for those who can’t fight for themselves. To go into bat for our friends and allies.”

This on the week that Michael Fallon conducted a PR exercise at Faslane that Kim Jong-un would be proud of and a week after he descended on the London arms fair to announce: “As we look to life post Brexit and seek to spread our wings across the world, it’s high time we do more to compete for a share of this international export market.”

At the moment Britain is batting for Saudi against the people of Yemen.

She continued …

We are a remarkable Union, conference. Because of the leadership of this party – our Union is known the world over as a Union of choice, not of force.”

That statement would need some testing. But again the idea of Britain being a global beacon is just a less oafish version of BoJo, but it’s the same delusion.

She continued…

“Let’s say it loud and proud – that this is a Union that that does not hoard power to the centre, but has sought to push it out. And again, did so thanks to a Conservative party which – as Edinburgh, as Cardiff, Manchester and Teeside will attest – is now THE party of devolution.”

This is extraordinary. Britain is one of the most centralised states there is and the Tory party opposed devolution with tooth and claw. Recent polling showed they still do. They cling to power by instinct and have treated the devolved governments through the Brexit negotiations with complete contempt.

She continued claiming: “to ensure that the power surge that will hit Britain when we leave the EU is felt in Edinburgh, in Cardiff Bay and in Stormont too.”

From a bonanza to a power surge.

Now in her stride she declares that: “it’s wonderful that our small island nation plays host to the capital of the world.”

We’re not a nation and London is not the capital of the world, but let’s not interrupt the fantasy.

As the Conservative party try and not tear each other apart on live television the response to the Catalan referendum from our Foreign Secretary is shameful if not at all surprising. But lets not pretend that the actions of other leadership contenders who are also British nationalists would be any different. These are politicians defending the power of a centralised state and quite happy to send in riot police to attack their own people, or to turn a blind eye when their colleagues in neighbouring countries do so.

As Ruth Davidson said today in Manchester: “We’re not leavers or remainers any more – we’re just Brits,”

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Comments (22)

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  1. Chris Clark says:

    Very insightful. Mrs May justified her calling of the recent election in her interview yesterday with Andrew Marr as a proper method of testing the views of the electorate. Why, then, is she so reluctant to allow the people of my country, Scotland, to express their views on self-government? I suppose she fears the result. Those who seek self-determination for Scotland are not the separatists. It’s those who seek to wrench us from our partners and friends of 44years in Europe who seek separation.

  2. bringiton says:

    Colonel Davidson’s “union” is a facade for the nation of England created in order to justify it’s complete dominance of the other nations of the UK state.
    England has made it absolutely clear that political unions are not for them unless they are calling the shots (bringing back control).
    The EU is in a difficult position with Catalunya where it cannot be seen to interfere in a member state’s internal affairs but is legally bound to support the individual human rights of it’s citizens which have been violated by the Madrid establishment.
    Perhaps a crossroads has been reached for the EU which has emerged from a loose grouping of nation states into something more cohesive where supporting the rights of it’s citizens have become more important.
    The use of force to suppress a regions democratic aspirations has no place in an EU which is emerging as a supra national entity.
    A vital part of this process is the principle of subsidiarity where power is devolved to it’s lowest level and not hoarded by centralising politicians like Rajoy and May.
    As usual,the extreme left and right of the political spectrum view this a a threat to their possible interests and reject the human right of people to elect a form of governance of their choice.
    Those people in the English based political parties who support the Rajoy administration’s use of violence in Catalunya,are only democrats when it suits their purpose and have no interest in furthering human rights but only their own selfish political ambitions.
    A “democratic” state using violence against a section of it’s citizens has lost the moral authority to govern and must be brought to account for it’s actions.
    The question is,who is going to do that?

    1. Willie says:

      Given the lack of EU response, the Spanish paramilitaries could have been herding the Catalonians into the gas chambers, and the Eau would do nothing.

      That is how shocking the pictures from Catalonia are.

      It’s a rerun of 30s Germany being carried out in the full glare of the EU.

  3. Eleanor Ferguson says:

    How can anyone see these scenes and think that it is ok because the violence is against people who are ” breaking the law”. For a start,it is only breaking the law because the aggressors have decreed it to be illegal-ie they have made it up as they have gone along. I’m beginning to get really worried about the way things are going . Politicians stay silent while appalling things are done by the UK government to its most vulnerable citizens and refugees are denied any safe haven here. Jeremy Corbyn acts like some kind of messiah although his party voted with the government for the cruellest cuts and he displays such ignorance about Scotland. The only party seeming to have any integrity in speaking out against all of these issues including the Catalan situation, is the SNP. Where are the politicians with morals and backbone these days. Even the Tories would have had something to say in the past and can you imagine John Smith or even Neil Kinnock saying that it’s nothing to do with us. What’s happened to students protesting these days?
    I do hope the EU will act in the next few days and put a stop to this sort of behaviour from governments of countries in the Union, there should be strict rules around what is acceptable in a member country.

    1. Interpolar says:

      Gandhi broke the law.

      There’s a statue of him outside WM Palace.

  4. MBC says:

    I just don’t understand what makes Ruth Davidson and the Scottish Tories tick. I just don’t understand how they can eulogise being Uncle Toms and joyfully pour scorn on the democratic aspirations of their own people and see our rights tramelled. English Tories, I get. But Scottish ones? How can people revel in being lackeys? I think Malcolm X’s characterisation of the difference between the house negro and the field negro comes closest to it.

    1. Alf Baird says:

      Maybe John Cleese was referring to Scottish Tories: “Because their craving for social status makes them obedient retainers ?” e.g. the Board of the National Trust for Scotland?

      1. Crubag says:

        The board of the NTS is elected by its members – it’s independent of government.

        From what I can see, an indy2 is off the table for the foreseeable future. There is a risk in the absence of a viable political project that indy becomes a kind of dead-ender witch hunt, rather than trying to engage and win over. The Wings/Commonspace spat reminded me more of how the various micro-socialist parties behave in the absence of any real prospect of revolution.

      2. Alasdair Macdonald says:

        I think you have hit the nail on the head here, Alf.

  5. w.b.robertson says:

    Can`t hear myself think about Catalonia`s crushing for the deafening silence emanating from the mighty EU. Not so long ago we were being assured that an Indy Scotland would be welcomed in as new members by the democratic-minded Brussels club. Nothing like a crisis (as the Catalans are discovering) to find out who are your friends.

  6. Alf Baird says:

    Such political unions are artificial (cultural) constructs thrust upon diverse peoples/cultures which, despite the propaganda, reject the constant assimilation efforts and can see through the faux sincerity of any supposed ‘better together’ façade. In the end they all invariably revert to thuggery, which is generally the way such union’s began in the first place, i.e. forced on a populace.

  7. Jim says:

    I’m seeing a worrying increase in people openly decrying “the English” these days rather than using more careful language (“Westminster” etc)

    That shit needs to be cut out right now. Old style naked nationalism is not the way to build consensus.

    1. This is a major issue, well said Jim.

      1. Cautiousautonomist says:

        And the editor should have been similarly critical of Willie’s ludicrous drawing of parallels with the Holocaust. Insulting to the victims of that horror – and ridiculous, self-aggrandising emotive bull.

    2. Alf Baird says:

      “Old style naked nationalism”

      Is this not what we just witnessed in Catalonia, with the Spanish state paramilitaries attacking civilians going to vote? Worth remembering that “British Unionism is (also) a nationalist political ideology”.

      Scottish independence is about self-determination, liberation and freedom, not nationalism. ‘Nationalists’ are those who block our right to self-determination.

    3. Graham Connelly says:

      Jim, Mike, anybody, where are you seeing this worrying increase in public condemnation of English people?

      1. Yeah Graham – I see it all over the place – I’ll look out specific examples, of course one is Alf and others blaming the entire referendum result on English people living in Scotland.

        1. Alf Baird says:

          Ed, it should not seem unreasonable to seek to further analyse the overall No vote composition, based on available evidence across a range of areas, e.g.: ongoing census data, voting intention data, dominant cultural / national influences etc. We might reasonably expect the very same factors influence the position in Catalonia where primarily distinct cultures (and languages?) – Spanish and Catalonian – are similarly at odds. I would be interested to learn why you think such significant factors should not even be discussed in the Scottish context?

          1. Well I’ve provided a platform where these issues have been discussed – so its a mute point. Separately I just don’t agree its a good strategy at all to move away from a civic nationalism to an ethnic one. I don’t think its either strategically or morally a good idea. The problem of blaming ‘the English’ is that it evades the problems of the British State, neoliberalism and other structural factors. To my mimd the very strength of the indy movement was its breadth and depth and its ability to be both internationalist and diverse in its makeup.

    4. bringiton says:

      What should we call people from England,Scottish?
      I would have preferred to refer to our southern neighbours as fellow Europeans but alas…..
      Westminster is effectively England’s parliament,elected by English votes and located in a country known as England.
      Perhaps we should take a leaf out of Gordon Brown’s book and refer to England and English people as Southern British?

  8. Crubag says:

    I’d voted leave because I thought the EU was unreformable. The Catalonia situation tends to bear that out. There was a comment from the German SPD that I found rather chilling, that cultural aspirations were already taken care of in regional committees and there was no need for independence.

    In that respect, being outside of the EU probably makes it easier for indy2, as EU members have no interest in holding together the UK the way that they perceive they need to preserve Spain.

    That’s probably reflected in the SNP’s more open commenting on Catalonia now that indy2 has receded, and there is no guarantee of an EU application going in even then.

  9. SleepingDog says:

    Presumably immediate worldwide documentation of the state violence in Catalonia cannot be suppressed because of modern technology and networks. Yet, following up the point on ‘illegal activity’, how do these information service providers stand on issues of civil disobedience? Apple’s iCloud Terms and Conditions:
    https://www.apple.com/uk/legal/internet-services/icloud/en/terms.html
    “B. Your Conduct
    “You agree that you will NOT use the Service to: …
    “j. plan or engage in any illegal activity; …”

    which suggests that such services could be terminated, possibly en masse, to any users uploading such content.

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