The Time for Action is Now

As former Catalan Education Minister, Clara Ponsati, hands herself in to Scottish police after Spain reissued an extradition warrant for her arrest, the truncheons of Spanish police still reign down on the innocent civilians in Catalonia who dare to stand up for their rights.

Despite violent oppression taking place since the independence referendum in October, the powers of Europe and the EU have been largely silent – unwilling to interfere in the domestic affairs of another member state, but willing to call out human rights abuses outside the EU.

With the arrest of Ponsati in Scotland and Puigdemont in Germany and increasing police violence in the streets of Catalonia, the Catalan issue has reached the shores of other nations who are no longer able to turn a blind eye.

With the potentiality of Scotland joining the EU as an independent state in the near future, the SNP has muzzled itself in order to seek the approval of EU members. A token of goodwill that was not reciprocated during the 2014 independence referendum.

While taking a stance far more in support of Catalan self-determination than European counterparts, the Scottish Government has seen an outpour of appeals from rank and file members of the SNP to do more. Not necessarily to override the judiciary, as some quick to criticise those appeals have claimed, but just to do something more.

A letter published by Ian Blackford MP, condemned the human rights abuses in Catalonia and called for a meeting with the Spanish ambassador. A slightly stronger stance compared to the minimalist paragraph of support offered by the Scottish Government just days before.

Going further, on Tuesday, Justice Secretary Michael Matheson said in Parliament that the Scottish Government would be raising the issue of European arrest warrants with the European Commission. This was followed up today with a letter from Secretary for External Affairs Fiona Hyslop.

These are small steps towards the expectations of rank and file members. However, one that is futile given the staunch authoritarianism of the Spanish state and cohesion of the European Commission. Once the SNP is rebuffed, what they do next is of the great importance.

A far greater political intervention is required whereby the Scottish Government could call for sanctions against Spain or suspension of its rights laid down in EU treaties.

Further yet would be for the Scottish Government to acknowledge the political motivations behind the arrest warrants and intervene to prevent the arrest of Ponsati. During the Catalan referendum, many Catalan police – the Mossos – under the control of the Catalan Government executed their duties to prevent the referendum with the bare minimum effort and even stood between voters and the Guardia Civil – in effect enabling the vote.

While this may breach the separation of powers, to allow Ponsati’s arrest via a politically motivated warrant issued by a compromised judiciary in Madrid which has been enabled by complicit European powers, to not act would be a great injustice. Apartheid was law. The illegality of homosexuality was law. Castes were law. In a system that is stacked against human rights, passivity cannot be an answer.

A lack of action from the EU has pushed many people in the independence movement towards a greater feeling of EU-scepticism – not Euro-scepticism. Faith has been lost in the institutions previously held up as the guardians of human rights and democracy which have happily allowed them to be trampled through political self-interest. Their inaction has encouraged Spain to continue its campaign of oppression.

For those in the movement and outwith it who do care about Catalonia, human rights and democracy: collective action must be taken.

The Catalan Defence Committee is organising a demonstration at the Buchanan Street Steps in Glasgow at 1pm on Saturday 14th of April.

Through the collective organisation and will of the people, the Catalan referendum came to fruition. And it is through those same principles and means that will push the governments of Europe further and further to defend those rights.

The time for action is now.

You can donate to support Clara Ponsati here.

Rory Steel
Member of the Catalan Defence Committee Scotland

Comments (23)

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  1. Willie says:

    To repeat the point, the arrest and extradition of Clara Ponsati is absolutely analogous with arresting and extradition a dissident Jew to 1930s Germany.

    Unlike the 1930s when the death camps were being constructed our Scottish government and legal system cannot stand idly by and meekly board the requested on to the trains.

    That was a mistake in the 1930s and it is a mistake today.

  2. w.b.robertson says:

    And the SNP still seek independence in the mighty EC? Do we really want rid of Westminster only to enthrall ourselves deeper with Brussels? I think the silence should end – and we should be told.

  3. Alister Rutherford says:

    I find this a very poor article, full of assertions, all lacking in evidence. The SNP has muzzled itself in order to seek the approval of EU members, the author asserts. Evidence for this? None. What condemnation has come from the governments of Norway and Iceland? Or are they too muzzling themselves? I find it disgraceful that someone can call for others, in this case the Scottish gov, to act illegally, knowing that it will not be Rory Steel who has to suffer any consequences. Furthermore the article completely ignores that Clara and her legal team have congratulated the Scottish gov for their support. More important to critique the Scottish gov, and the EU, than come up with concrete suggestions.

    1. Somerled says:

      What a great example of a bad article.

      Willie, come off it…

    2. Graeme Purves says:

      I agree with Alister.

    3. Iain McIntosh says:

      I agree – the author reminds me of Richard Leonard, has little knowledge of how limited the powers of the Scottish Government are.

      For balance, let’s look at the facts? Those in the Scottish Government, SNP and broader independence movement are the only ones providing support to Clara Ponsati. It’s SNP politicians who have been standing in front of the cameras stating this is disgraceful behaviour by Spain and should not be happening.

      Let’s look at the other side of this discussion, the british labour movement. labour in Scotland are quick to stick the boot into Clara Ponsati, in this respect they join their unionist pals in the tories. All of a sudden after a referendum process that lasted nine months, ttories and labour are now calling a democratic process in to question on behalf of those welding batons on civilians heads! Shame on the british labour movement, especially the Scottish stooges!

      Is this the kind of behaviour that labour believe is justified in Scotland if the tories are in power in the uk for another 20 years and refuse Scots the opportunity to vote on their self determination?

      Where would labour extradite SNP leaders to – the Tower of London?

      The author calls for the Scottish Government to spell out the motivation of the Spanish Government, it is exactly the same reason that british unionist politicans are so antagonistic towards Clara Ponsati, they wish to “discredit self determination”. They are modern day colonialists exploiting and repatriating another’s wealth and natural resources.

      I’d ask the author to update this post in a month and include the words and deeds of those in Scotland who believe in self determination. Do so and contrast it with those who would have gleefully placed Clara Ponsati in a police van last Wednesday and escorted her to the first available plane to Spain.

      For the record, I believe Scottish Law should be used to its absolute fullest to protect the human rights of Clara Ponsati. Sadly as we know, thanks to unionist parties, the supreme uk court now trumps Scotland’s highest court.

      Lastly, if we have voted YES in 2014, Clara Ponsati would not be under threat of extradition, makes you think!

  4. Clive Scott says:

    Anyone know what stays a European Arrest Warrant has after Brexit? If it falls then Carla’s legal team may be able to duck and dive until Brexit day?

    1. bringiton says:

      Theresa May is very keen to continue security cooperation with the EU post Brexit so I imagine these warrants will still hold.

      1. Willie says:

        Security cooperation is all good and well. But what we are talking here is a politically motivated warrant.

        If as an example, Theresa May had refused the Scottish Parliament the right to hold a referendum, had then deployed troops to physically stop people voting, and then thrown Scottish MSPs into jail with an arrest warrant for Alex Salmond, then we would be looking at similar scenario.

        The analogy therefore of applying for arrest and extradition of Jews to 1930s Germany is not therefore in a inappropriate.

        We ignore such behaviour at our peril and there must be ways that member states can resist this application for rendition.

        1. Crubag says:

          Formal membership if the European Arrest Warrant arrangements would end with Brexit. The UK could get an arrangement like Norway whcih is close to EAW but gives equal status to the EU court and Norway’s court.

          But it looks like there will be a transition period, with the UK still under EU rules, and the point of EAW was to streamline the return of fugitives by taking politicians out of the decision-making, and removing grounds for refusal – such as the alleged offence not being a crime in the country of refuge.

          1. Willie says:

            If the EU is going to enforce political arrest warrants, is going to continue to turn its face away from police and militia brutality, as is the case in Spain, then I think the time has come to decide whether we want to remain in an EU that does not protect its citizens.

            Different states have different laws and legal systems. One state could have a social democratic government whilst another could have a national socialist government.

            Seems to me Crubag that removing grounds for appeal against arrest and or extradition is a very dangerous thing. As I’ve said, the Jews, the communists, the homosexuals all found that out in 1930s Germany.

            I am no lawyer, but let us remind ourselves how there has been huge debate about the USA demanding extradition of UK citizens for crimes not a crime in the UK and where, if the individual was extradited, they could face life in prison.

            The extradition of Ponsati is no doubt seen as a good thing by a Unionists because like the Spain they’ve have their issues with folk wanting to democratically form their own state. Goodness sake, look what happened in the strange death of Willie McCrae, or even look at what happened to thirteen defenceless Northern Ireland Civil Rights marchers in Derry some forty years ago.

            Democracy and as the Germans, and indeed the Spanish know, is a fragile thing. And the Irish know that too.

            More recently, with establishment thorn in the side a Julian Assange, despite Sweden dropping the charge and extradition request that initiated his seeking sanctuary in the Ecuadorian embassy, the UK is still seeking to implement an arrest on him.

            And so, when it comes to the bit, the use of the unappealable warrant for political thuggery against opponents is alive and well.

            We ignore this, and traduce our legal and constitutional systems if we do not have legal methods to resist such abuse.

            Just lift em, intern em, disregard whether the warrant is made with political vexation it’s got all the hallmarks of Nacht Und Nabel.

  5. Crubag says:

    @Willie, I think the two basic assumptions of the European Union is that we have more in common than we have differences, and that national-level decision-making is unnecessarily cluttered and that (some) power needs to be both devolved below and centralised above national level.

    EAWs were meant to take the nation-state out of the decision-making exactly because they brought a national perspective to something that should be a common approach across the EU – because our political cultures were interchangeable.

    Post-BREXIT, it will be interesting to see how things develop. Some countries, e.g. Germany or the Netherlands, are very restrictive about the extradition of their nationals to non-EU countries.

  6. Redgauntlet says:

    There is one thing the Scottish government can do about the situation is by using diplomacy – not on Spain, that’s a complete waste of time – but on other European governments, including the UK government, to in turn exert pressure on Spain at the institutional level – I mean behind closed doors – to find some kind of a solution to A SPANISH PROBLEM OF GOVERNANCE….

    Because is what is happening is that the negligence of Rajoy and the PP, his complete refusal to actually do his job and GOVERN, and the intransigence of the Spanish State in general, is creating a problem for the whole of Europe… they are exporting their problem.

    This is now a European problem, which will go on for months but possibly years, and Rajoy, as usual, is nowhere to be seen… this is not how we do politics in democracy. This is not politics, it’s anti-politics…

    Think ahead. If Puigdemont is tried for treason and rebellion, think what will happen in the streets of Barcelona?

    There has already been violence, and there will be more violence. There may well be loss of life… there will be more extradition orders for more Catalan political prisoners…

    Where does it all end? You can’t lock up 2 millions Catalans, though no doubt Rajoy hasn’t ruled out the idea…

    As for Ian Blackford’s request to see the Spanish ambassador, well that’s going to do nothing at all, and no doubt the Spanish ambassador is laughing his socks off at the idea…

    1. David Allan says:

      Gibraltar and Brexit influences all matters with Spain. Thuggery in Catalonia will be ignored by Wastemonster if it will ease negotiations about Gib.

      What’s David Davis going to pull out of the hat there?

    2. Jo says:

      The UK and other EU countries already back Spain’s position and, really, the Scottish Government has no influence on the matter nor authority to interfere. Personally I was concerned to hear Fiona Hyslop speaking publicly with other colleagues about an ongoing court case. They could risk being accused of attempting to interfere with the judiciary and that won’t help this poor lady’s situation. I also worry that the UK government will drag this to the UK Supreme Court on the grounds that the UK is the EU member and the Supreme Court should rule on this case. In any case I think the SNP politicians should butt out meantime. This lady is in a dreadful position and she doesn’t need to be exploited.

      1. Redgauntlet says:

        Exactly Jo, the SNP should keep out of it at the official level.

        George Kervan, Ian Blackford and Fiona Hyslop should all back off. Clara is in safe hands, she has a good lawyer, and she has millions of Scottish friends behind her.

        As for all these people calling for the EU “to do something”, well that’s not really how it works.

        There is no EU as such, there are the member states, and the Commission, and one member state is very reluctant to criticize another member State.

        Besides, all of them are meant to respect the independence of the judiciary – though Poland is trying not to. For the SNP to jump in there is a mistake.

        The EU works largely, I suspect, in fact I know, at the back room level. There are trade-offs on deals and lots of lobbying. Somebody needs to have a word with Mariano Rajoy… because he hasn’t even sat down to talk once with Puigdemont. I mean, he hasn’t even done that.

        And last autumn, Rajoy was saying that Catalonia was “a Spanish internal matter”. Well, it’s not anymore…. it’s now a European matter.

        And with Der Spiegel, The Guardian, The Times, The New Times and numerous other newspapers lining up against Spain’s heavy handedness, it may be that the Spanish Establishment begins to crack… not the ultra nationalist PP of course, but the PSOE.

        There are a lot of Spanish liberals and intellectuals out there who will be feeling uncomfortable right now…

        1. Willie says:

          Absolutely correct Red Gauntlet in pragmatic terms.

          However, and this is from a pro EU perspective, the spectre of handing over a political dissident to a hostile and frankly authoritarian regime is something that is as unappealing as handing a dissident Jew over to 1930s Germany.

          Somebody has not had a word with Rajoy. Quite the contrary he has been emboldened to issue the arrest warrants In the timing that he has.

          All the sophistry in the world does not change this, and for that reason, ordinary people are apprehensive about what is being done, and what is not being done.

          Maybe hanging an innocent man, or in this case woman, only to find out later that they were actually innocent is the way that the EU operates. A bit like the 1930s when folks found out too late.

          But yes, maybe you are correct, and your insights into Spanish life are most iappreciated in contributing to this very important debate.

  7. Redgauntlet says:

    I don’t who the person is in the Scottish government who would do this, but I would be on the phone to all of my European counterparts in every single country in Europe EXCEPT Spain…

    Particularly Germany, for obvious reasons, but also the smaller countries like Ireland, Portugal – the Portuguese press are as incredulous as we are at Spain’s neo-Francoist approach to Catalonia – but also too Lithuania…..

    According to the Spanish newspaper El Publico, Spain BOUGHT Lithuania’s silence over Catalonia last year by sending to that country, without prior approval of the Spanish Congress:

    “A Spanish army with the greatest combat force ever deployed by Spain abroad” whose costs in the year 2017 alone amounted to 63 millions euros…

    http://www.publico.es/politica/silencio-letonia-catalunya-rajoy-compro-tropas-costo-63-millones.html

    But the key is maybe the smaller EU Member States. They can cause serious problems for Spain in the EU, serious problems: they have a veto.

    And my guess is that they will be sympathetic to the argument of the Catalans…

    1. Redgauntlet says:

      PS: Obviously, the quid pro quo was that the Lithuanians are very anxious about Russia and want more troops there. Apparently, Lithuania was ready to recognize Catalan independence in the event of UDI….

    2. Jo says:

      Interesting Red-g, and many thanks for your reply to my earlier post.

      1. MBC says:

        Yes thanks Redgauntlet. Why do we never hear this stuff over here? It looks like Spain might be trying to buy off the Lithuanians.

        I don’t read Spanish. But I take it this had nothing to do with NATO?

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