Xavier Solano: ‘In Scotland Yes will win’

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 By Laura Ruiz i Trullols, translated from Catalan by Paul T Kavanagh  

First Minister Alex Salmond announced last week that on 18 September 2014 Scotland would hold its ballot on independence. Since then, Catalonia has opened a debate on whether  the Catalan referendum should be held before, after or simultaneously.  

Xavier Solano, former delegate of the government of Catalonia in the UK and adviser to the Scottish National Party (SNP) in the British parliament, believes that both nations should learn from each other’s errors and successes in the process towards independence.

 By Laura Ruiz i Trullols, translated from Catalan by Paul T Kavanagh  

First Minister Alex Salmond announced last week that on 18 September 2014 Scotland would hold its ballot on independence. Since then, Catalonia has opened a debate on whether  the Catalan referendum should be held before, after or simultaneously.  

Xavier Solano, former delegate of the government of Catalonia in the UK and adviser to the Scottish National Party (SNP) in the British parliament, believes that both nations should learn from each other’s errors and successes in the process towards independence.

In this interview, Vilaweb presents the main arguments of the Scottish Yes campaign that began a few months ago. They want Scotland to become a Scandinavian-style welfare state and within the EU, but to keep the pound sterling as currency.

Q: In Scotland there is already a date for the independence referendum and in Catalonia there is intense discussion about when to hold theirs.

A: Scotland’s, according to the election program of the first minister, will be in the autumn of 2014. The specific date has been announced after studying carefully the calendar … In the case of Catalonia, there is an agreement between the ruling party and the main opposition party also to carry it out in 2014. I understand that it is a process like as Scotland’s and the date has yet to be set.

Q: Oriol Junqueras [leader of the pro-independence leftist party the ERC) recalled that the date set for Scotland, the 18th of September 2014, will be three hundred years since the fall of the Castle of Cardona, the last Catalan action of the War of Succession [which saw the loss of Catalonia’s traditional autonomy].  Is this also a good date for Catalonia?  

A: That depends upon the context of each…  Personally, I am of the opinion that they are important dates to remember historical facts that explain why Catalonia is part of Spain and the way it became so. I find it logical that we take advantage of these dates, symbols are always important. I do not know the details of the internals of the Catalan case, but the fact is that reality is harsh. And I think that we must face reality with symbols. Now, if they match, then perfect.

Q: Are you referring to the economic crisis?

A: Yes, the crisis is not an isolated element, it is a consequence of international circumstances, but also of the situation of Catalonia within the Spanish state.   It is important to solve because it affects in a savage manner a society which does not deserve it. There are many families who have suffered really badly, an urgent solution is required. In this regard, the Government of Catalonia, along with the main opposition party, promised a date and I’m sure will be met, because the promises have to be fulfilled. In addition, society wants it and it cannot be stopped.

Q: Catalan independence supporters envy the determination of Scottish politicians.  Do Scottish independence supporters envy Catalan society?

A: Everyone envies a society with strength and political momentum. Having a society as politically active is enviable, also for the Scots. But bear in mind the Scottish Presbyterian tradition: they knew how to read and write from the sixteenth century, the church spread literacy so people could interpret the Bible personally, without intermediaries.  They are a people who analyze and reflect a lot, not people to protest in the streets. They listen to the messages from supporters of the yes and no campaigns and choose what they believe to be best for their future. Therefore, we believe that we will win because we have the best project for Scotland. In Scotland the debate is not visceral, it is rational.

Q: And the British government allows the debate to take place …

A: Yes, the United Kingdom has a very solid democratic base.  They have found themselves in a situation where there was a party which won the elections with a programme which said that they would hold a referendum late in 2014.  The British government understands that since that party won they cannot go against the will of the people.  

Q: The Catalan case is very different.

A: The reality is most complex, but Catalan society sees it very clearly.  The people want a referendum, it’s obvious.  The political parties have to know how to read it.

Q: And what can they learn from the Scottish example?

A: The Catalans, both independence supporters and unionists, have to learn the lessons which the Scots consider appropriate, and the reverse as well.  In fact, they observe one another because what happens in one place affects the other, it’s evident.  It’s good that they study one another, and in both cases they have the example of Quebec.

Q: There are those who think that the referendum should be held before Scotland’s because in Scotland the No’s will win and this will prejudice the success of the Catalan referendum.  

A: In Scotland Yes will win, of that I am convinced.

Q: In the test referendum held by the University of Glasgow, 62% of the students who participated voted no.  Why are you so convinced?  

A: Because the campaign needs time in order to explain itself.  Both the British and Scottish government published a series of documents to explain why it’s better to continue within the UK or to leave it. We believe that we will win the debate, we have managed to convey that our project is much more positive for Scotland. In recent surveys the difference between yes and no is decreasing. Therefore, we are on track and we have an ambitious project.

Q: What are your arguments?

A: For starters, we propose to remain a part of the European Union; the United Kingdom isn’t so sure.  As a campaign video demonstrates, we believe that a baby born on the day of the referendum will have a much better life in a Scotland governed by Scots.  And with a philosophy of working much more like that of the Nordic countries, natural neighbours of Scotland: Norway, Iceland, Sweden, Denmark and Ireland.  Per començar, nosaltres proposem de continuar formant part de la Unió Europea; el Regne Unit, no ho sabem. Com mostra un vídeo de la campanya, nosaltres creiem que una nena que neixi el dia del referèndum viurà molt millor en una Escòcia gestionada per escocesos. I amb una filosofia de treballar molt més amb els països nòrdics, els veïns naturals d’Escòcia: Noruega, Islàndia, Suècia, Dinamarca i Irlanda. They’ve lived a long time on the sidelines, but now it’s time to embrace them.

Q: You say yes to the European Union but no to the Euro and propose to maintain the pound sterling.

A: That’s the currency that’s always been used as long as the United Kingdom has existed.  It’s the currency our most important “client” in England use.  There are other examples of countries within the EU which do not use the euro, such as Denmark, and they’re doing just fine.  

Q: British public opinion criticises that decision, they say it is incoherent with the fact of wanting independence.  

A: Yes, but there are also determined sections of UK opinion which say that creating a parliament for Scotland was incoherent, that the SNP was an incoherent party which would not win any more elections.  But we did this and we even won an absolute majority in the last elections in 2011. The Scots potential is impressive: it has two of the world’s best universities, research centers and an important culture of trading. And Scotland is a powerful brand, it is amongst the ten best known of countries in the world.

Q: What effect has the economic crisis had on the Scottish case?

A:  It affects both the supporters of yes as well as the no campaign.  In any case, the Scottish government is opposed to cuts.  It holds that there must be investment in the public sector in order to revive the economy.  No just to maintain the welfare state, but to extend it.  With independence it will be widened even further, above all to help families with children.

Q: Finally, the question will be: “Should Scotland be an independent country?” And it will be possible to choose between yes and no.  

A: Yes, there will be no third option.  The British government has refused the proposal of the SNP to include an option of choosing an intermediate path between independence and the status quo. 

This article first appeared on Vilweb.cat in Catalan and appears here in English translation courtesy of Vilaweb.