Scottish solidarity efforts intensify as Catalan referendum date approaches

Amid solidarity demonstrations, cross-party MSPs express support for the democratic will of Catalonia

POLITICIANS AND ACTIVISTS from across Scotland’s political and constitutional spectrum have expressed their support for Catalonia’s embattled independence referendum in the face of attempted repression by the Spanish Government.

Emergency demonstrations in support of the Catalan referendum have been held in Edinburgh, where protestors assembled outside the Spanish consulate, and Glasgow, while Dundee’s new festival of political radicalism Leftfest hosted its own expression of solidarity with Catalonia.

Connor Beaton, one of Leftfest’s organisers and national secretary of the Scottish Socialist Party, commented that Catalonia’s repression at the hands of the Spanish state evoked “uncomfortable memories of Franco's dictatorship”.

READ MORE: SNP MSPs call of European Commission to condemn Spain and defend Catalan referendum

Following last week’s open letter to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker from a group of SNP MSPs urging European intervention to ensure a “free, fair and non-intrusive” referendum, a cross-party group of MSPs from the SNP, the Scottish Greens, Scottish Labour and the Scottish Liberal Democrats have written to Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy “to express our grave concern at the escalating actions of the Spanish state in Catalonia.”

No Scottish Conservative politicians signed the letter. Neither did the two contenders for the Scottish Labour leadership, Anas Sarwar and Richard Leonard, who have remained silent on the issue.

The letter continues: “We come from a range of political traditions, with differing views on Scotland’s constitutional future and a collective neutrality on the question being posed to the Catalan people but we are united in our belief in democracy.

“Work together to allow the people to decide their own future.” Open letter from MSPs to Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy

“The Spanish Government claim to be acting in defence of democracy but threats of legal action against hundreds of democratically elected representatives and repressive acts against an elected government, media organisations and citizens are in no way democratic acts.

“The recent arrest of a Catalan government minister and a number of government staff was a particular violation of the norms of European democracy.

“The situation in Catalonia is a political challenge and it can only be adequately resolved through political action, through dialogue and through allowing the people to express their will democratically.

“Legal action against the Catalan government, several hundred local mayors and others perceived to be facilitating the referendum is no way for a democratic European state to act against its own people.

“We call on you and your government to engage with the Catalan government as partners in facilitating a democratic and just resolution to this situation. Work together to allow the people to decide their own future. This is the only sustainable and truly democratic solution.”

“Deploying an increasingly militarised police against a democratic movement of citizens is a dark road to go down.” Ross Greer MSP

Commenting on the escalating situation in Catalonia, Ross Greer MSP, the Scottish Greens’ external affairs spokesperson, said: “As MSPs we represent a spectrum of opinions on Scotland’s own constitutional debate and it’s certainly not for us to tell the Catalan people what choices they should make.

“As democrats and parliamentarians however, we must defend the right of peoples across the world to decide their own future and the right of elected representatives to carry out their duties to the people without feat of arrest.

READ MORE: Spanish Government shuns Fiona Hyslop’s call for democracy to be respected

“To see a state at the heart of Europe take such oppressive actions against its own people is simply unacceptable. The UK and Spain may be different places with different constitutional traditions but in Scotland we have proven that such significant questions can be answered through peaceful debate and dialogue.

“The Spanish Government must try to find a political solution to this situation. The alternative, of arresting government staff & senior officials, raiding the offices of newspapers and political parties and deploying an increasingly militarised police against a democratic movement of citizens, is a dark road to go down.”

READ MORE: Edinburgh demonstration planned to show solidarity with Catalonia

The Spanish Government has pledged to do everything necessary to prevent the referendum, which has been deemed illegal by Spain’s Constitutional Court.

According to Spanish newspaper El Nacional, Spain’s Guardia Civil have entered 31 Catalan council offices to seize literature relating to the referendum, as well as documents and emails signed by Catalan mayors allowing the buildings to be used as polling stations.

As the Guardia Civil raided the Catalan Department of Economy building, an estimated 40,000 people rallied outside in protest against the actions of the Spanish authorities.

On 1 October, the planned date of the independence referendum, a national solidarity demonstration organised by the Radical Independence Campaign will take place in Edinburgh outside the Spanish consulate on North Castle Street at 1pm.

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Comments

MauriceBishop

Tue, 09/26/2017 - 18:35

The Spanish constitution does not permit any region to vote alone on independence: Either all of Spain votes on the Catalan question, or no one does. So what those SNP MSPs are urging is that the EU override a decisions of Spanish Constitutional Court in an internal matter.

Oh yes, I'm sure that's a trend that would lead to a series of happy outcomes.

"Work together to allow the people to decide their own future. This is the only sustainable and truly democratic solution.”
Let's remember that the next time someone in the independence movement says that Orkney, Shetland, Dumfries and Galloway, etc. can be dragged out of the Union against their will by Glasgow if they ever get their second bite of the cherry.

Emptyheid

Wed, 09/27/2017 - 06:12

I note your point Maurice, but what if we follow the trend you highlight in the other direction.If the approach of the Spanish constitution which was imposed on Catalania were to have been applied across the EU, would you have been happy to see your right to vote on Brexit outlawed, I suspect not. So I’m afraid I don’t find the stated basis for your comments on Catalonia or regions of Scotland convincing. Is there another basis for opposing the people of Catalonias attempts to govern themselves? If so please share. On the regions of Scotland, I would hope that a scottish government would not treat the people of Dumfries or Orkney the way the Catalans are being treated by Madrid. But I’m not sure if your argument is that this is exactly how a Scottish government should behave?

PMechan

Wed, 09/27/2017 - 12:27

...and MauriceBishop, this part of the constitution was drawn up by Franco to suppress democracy. It also runs directly counter to the Human Rights convention of the right to self-determination. Just because something is a rule or a law does not make it right. If it is wrong, as this so clearly is, it should always be challenged.

MauriceBishop

Wed, 09/27/2017 - 13:57

"If the approach of the Spanish constitution which was imposed on Catalania were to have been applied across the EU, would you have been happy to see your right to vote on Brexit outlawed."

Except that there was never any question about the constitutionality of the EU referendum.

These SNP MSPS are writing to Rajoy telling him to ignore his own Constitutional Court.

MauriceBishop

Wed, 09/27/2017 - 14:02

@PMechan

A political party in Catalonia doesn't get to decide which parts of the constitution apply to it and which don't. Both the EU, through the Vienna Commission, and the UN have told that party it doesn't have a leg to stand on re its justifications for breaking the law and misappropriating public sector money for a publicity stunt.

If Puigdemont wants to challenge Spanish law, then the courts are the places to do that. Problem is, he know he will lose, because Spanish, EU and UN legal authorities are all unified in saying that the supposed injustice here is nonexistent.

Emptyheid

Thu, 09/28/2017 - 14:24

Isn’t the point though Maurice that you are applying rules generated with democratically evolved and accepted constitutional law in mind, to a constitution imposed by a fascist dictator?
I’m tempted to side with Kant, motivation is at least as important as effect and if the Constitutional law you are arguing should be enforced was created to control rather than to serve, then my sympathies remain with the directly elected representatives who are attempting to serve the Catalonian people.
It is a great disservice to those in the legal profession to suggest that simply because something is written in law, it is beyond challenge. Many lawyers have died or suffered for exposing and challenging abuse of laws and legal process. Consider Gandhi, Consider apartheid, consider what is happening to judges in Turkey, consider the Chartists and suffragettes. The fact something is legal does not on its own make it right. The rule of law is best served when it applies by consent. It is also undermined by unfair and unjust ‘ laws’. This is I believe why Scottish Institutional legal theorists such as Stair felt Scots law should evolve in line with ‘natural justice’, rather remain a fixed set of dry and dusty texts. It seems to me the Catalonian’s want to spend their tax euros expressing their opinion. This doesn’t seem unreasonable. It seems very democratic. I therefore find it difficult to respect laws which prevent this. And that is why I can’t agree with your arguments Maurice. Is your argument based solely on Spanish Constitutional law? Or are there other reasons you would be willing to share?

MauriceBishop

Thu, 09/28/2017 - 16:50

"Isn’t the point though Maurice that you are applying rules generated with democratically evolved and accepted constitutional law in mind, to a constitution imposed by a fascist dictator?"

No.

"It is a great disservice to those in the legal profession to suggest that simply because something is written in law, it is beyond challenge."

Strawman.

"Consider Gandhi, Consider apartheid, consider what is happening to judges in Turkey, consider the Chartists and suffragettes."

Do as you like. I'm talking about Spain in 2017.

Emptyheid

Thu, 09/28/2017 - 17:33

I am trying to engage with your argument Maurice, which introduces (whether you like it or not), regions of Scotland (expressly) and the ethical nature of law (by implication). As Stair would point out, we are born with judgement and we are all born free to use that judgement. Anyone with judgement can see that a law applied whether it be right or wrong, is a law applied on the basis of nothing more than the principle that ‘might is right’. If that was obvious to the most influential jurist known to Scots law way back in the seventeenth century then it is hopefully obvious to those of us born since the enlightenment. I ask if you have another argument to make, other than the one based on Franco’s imposed Constitution. You haven’t been able or willing to do so. Your argument therefore appears to remain being no more than ‘Catalonia shouldn’t express their view because Madrid is stronger than Catalonia and it wants Catalonia to keep quiet’. Do you really think that is going to convince me or anyone reading this that you are right?

MauriceBishop

Thu, 09/28/2017 - 17:41

You a setting up a series of strawmen. There is no great calamity of injustice going on in Catalonia. There is only one man determined to misappropriate millions of Euros of public sector funds to stage a publicity stunt on a grand scale because his grip on power is tenuous and he needs to shore up his core support.

Emptyheid

Thu, 09/28/2017 - 17:49

Ok so your argument isn’t actually founded on faith or support for Franco’s imposed Constitution, but rather on your suspicion that Catalonia’s democratically elected leader isn’t serving the wishes of those who voted him in?

MauriceBishop

Thu, 09/28/2017 - 18:11

My argument is founded on respect for the rule of law. Puigdemont is not entitled to declare himself above it. He heads a minority regional government, and he is misappropriating millions of Euros of public sector funds in order to stage a publicity stunt that will appeal to his core support and possibly shore up his tenuous position.

If Puigdemont wants to challenge Spanish law, then the courts are the places to do that. Problem is, he know he will lose, because Spanish, EU and UN legal authorities are all unified in saying that the supposed injustice here is nonexistent.

Emptyheid

Thu, 09/28/2017 - 19:03

Then my response Maurice is that, laws shouldn’t be respected without thought, we all have to check laws against our own moral compass before following them. These Constitutional laws we have been discussing appear to have been imposed without consent. The breaking of these laws (which is actually still to be decided on), is aimed at allowing people to say what they think about their own future. It doesn’t involve harming or abusing anyone and relies on resources the Catalans themselves have raised. In these circumstances I think the Catalans are entitled (morally) to have a referendum.

On the Catalan leader’s motives, I do agree that these are important. But how can we judge what these are? I judge it on the basis that he has been democratically appointed. As the democratically appointed leader he is entitled and indeed obliged to honour the manifesto he campaigned on. This is what he appears to me to be doing. I am not aware of any evidence that he is doing otherwise.
I’ve tried to listen to all your points Maurice but after doing so I remain unconvinced by your arguments and I remain sympathetic towards those Catalans trying to formally voice their views.
One final thing I found interesting while considering your points Maurice. According to Wikipedia these are the words of another Maurice Bishop:
‘..The right of freedom of expression can really only be relevant if people are not too hungry, or too tired to be able to express themselves. It can only be relevant if appropriate grassroots mechanisms rooted in the people exist, through which the people can effectively participate. ...We talk about the human rights that the majority has never been able to enjoy, ... to a job, to decent housing, to a good meal. ...These human rights have been the human rights for a small minority over the years in the Caribbean and the time has come for the majority of the people to begin to receive those human rights for the first time.”
I think even that Maurice Bishop, the Grenada leader and lawyer, would agree that the Catalans are not living in dire poverty. And so even on the basis of this arguable logic, his words suggest that your namesake would have supported Catalan’s right to self determination. Your namesake’s words suggest he at least would recognise that a basic human right was being denied in Spain in 2017.
Isn’t it time for you to reconsider Maurice?

MauriceBishop

Thu, 09/28/2017 - 18:59

No.

In the West, be are governed by laws, not the "moral compass" of individuals. I know plenty of people whose "moral compass" is a festering stew of justifications for their personal selfishness. I certainly don't want them declaring themselves to the final arbiter of what laws do and do not apply to themselves and to the entities they find themselves temporarily in charge of.

If Puigdemont wants to challenge Spanish law, then the courts - not the streets - is the place to do that.

Emptyheid

Thu, 09/28/2017 - 20:04

Well, I understood he was trying to do it by the ballot box.
It is others who have resorted to force. And I wonder how you would have behaved in apartheid South Africa. I know how I would hope to have behaved. And I hope the same for you too. Good debating with you Maurice. But your arguments are weak and though I respect your right to make them, in debate ‘might is right’ ;0)

MauriceBishop

Thu, 09/28/2017 - 19:15

Your understanding is wrong. He has helped himself to millions of Euros of public sector money for a publicity stunt that won't change a thing but might shore up his support enough within his "base" to allow him to continue to keep his very tenuous grip on power.

I think you trying to drag apartheid South Africa into this is simply appalling.

Emptyheid

Thu, 09/28/2017 - 19:33

I mention apartheid Maurice as an example of a legal system I assume you would find unpalatable. So am not sure you really need to be appalled. There is no insult here. Certainly there is none intended. But if you are appalled by the apartheid legal system then I would hope that would help you to understand the limits that should be placed on faith in any law (alone). Law Without a moral base or support is likely to be no more than oppression.

Emptyheid

Sun, 10/01/2017 - 18:56

‘Is it ever wrong to give people a vote; no I think not....’ Theresa May, Andrew Marr show, today.....

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