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.
Member of the Catalan Defence Committee Scotland