Catalonia in Scotland’s Independence Slipstream

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By Mark McNaught

In late July in Barcelona, I had the pleasure of participating in a round table discussion over Catalonia’s constitutional future.  The other participants were very curious about the status of the ‘yes’ campaign in Scotland, and whether the corporate polls were correct in predicting a ‘no’ vote.

I explained that there was a massive cognitive dissonance between what the polls and the unionist media are portraying, and the information I had received from canvassers on the ground.  I spoke about the massive canvassing in the most deprived areas of Scotland, where voter participation is often at 1/3 of the residents, and that they were getting registered and overwhelmingly will vote ‘yes’.

They seemed reassured, though it clearly demonstrated the extent to which Catalans are counting on a Scottish ‘yes’ vote on September, and how much they look to Scotland to help them chart a course towards being an independent state.

The borders of European nations, depending on how ‘borders’ and ‘nations’ are defined, have evolved since humans have inhabited it.  Over the last 1000 years or so the ecclesiastic-monarchic-aristocratic system has prevailed, under which divine right and blood inheritance has determined who rules.  It has been expanded by planned marriages and mating between the nobility to merge different duchies, counties, and kingdoms, often non contiguous.

In the case of Catalonia and Scotland, they were ‘absorbed’ into their current states 300 years ago, 1714 for Catalonia and 1707 for Scotland.  Catalonia fell to the forces of the Bourbon Monarch on September 11, 1714, after the brutal siege of Barcelona.  The Scottish Nobility, stung by the losses in the ill-fated Darien scheme, signed the 1707 Act of Union.  This dissolved the Scottish Parliament and sent representatives to Westminster, ending Scotland as a sovereign country.

300 years later, Catalonia and Scotland wish to revert to their former status as independent, sovereign states, though ideally without a monarchy.  Scotland has a legal referendum process in place, of which the Catalans are jealous. They persistently ask the Spanish government why they don’t have the decency of David Cameron to let the people decide, however ironic that may seem.

The Catalans, however, have overwhelming support for the right to decide as well as independence.  They just need to find a way to have a legal vote.  If they cannot hold a referendum, they plan to hold plebiscitary elections and unilaterally declare independence.

Catalonia is way behind Scotland in terms of their independence planning.  They are so encumbered by Madrid bloody-mindedness towards a legal referendum that they have had difficulty seeing beyond that.  The round table I participated in on a written Catalan constitution was among the first steps in that direction.  Madrid has done their best to shut down conferences and discussions about Catalonia’s constitutional future.

The Scottish government has produced the White Paper, which sketches out what an independent Scotland could look like.  The Catalan National Transition Advisory Council has issued reports on an independent Catalonia, but the Spanish government simply will not countenance independence, and refuses all possibilities.

The Catalans looked to Scotland when they chose November 9th as their referendum day.  They were concerned about what effect the Scottish vote would have, so did not schedule it on the 11 September which is the 300th anniversary of la diada.  Catalonia will either have increased momentum if there is a ‘yes’ vote, or time to adjust if there is a ‘no’ vote.

That is why for Catalans, a ‘yes’ vote on Scottish independence is existential.  Catalan President Artur Mas has openly advocated it, and they are counting on Scotland to choose self-governance so they have a precedent to follow.

The Spanish government has been lobbing many of the same scare stories as the UK, threatening expulsion from the EU and the Euro if Catalonia becomes independent, rendering them a pariah state shunned from all international institutions.

Scotland’s navigation of the transition to independence will be carefully watched by Catalonia, and they will be using the precedent forged by Scotland on their own journey towards independence.

The transition to a fully Scottish legal system, accession to the EU, the UN, and other international institutions, the partition of assets and liabilities, and many other monumental issues Scotland will face will demonstrate how these things can be accomplished.

Scotland’s independence will be the beginning of the enlargement of Europe, which will not stop with Scotland and Catalonia.  Flanders, Venice, and other stateless nations will be following Scottish independence very carefully.