‘A great achievement’: Campaigners welcome defence of the right to self-determination from Sturgeon & Catalan President Quim Torra

Following their meeting at Bute House, both leaders agreed that in “21st century Europe issues of self-determination must ultimately be addressed through democratic referendums”

CATALAN ACTIVISTS have welcomed the outcome of the historic meeting between First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Catalan President Quim Torra yesterday [11 June], characterising the symbolic strengthening of ties between the two nations as “a great achievement.”

Torra, who was sworn into office in May following months of political conflict in the aftermath of Catalonia’s independence referendum in October 2017 and the subsequent imposition of direct rule by the Spanish Government, met with the first minister at Bute House yesterday evening.

Earlier in the day, the president met with the exiled former Catalan minister and St Andrews academic Clara Ponsati, who is currently fighting Spanish attempts to extradite her for charges relating to her involvement with the Catalan referendum.

A joint-statement issued by both leaders described the meeting as “cordial”, stating that its aim was “strengthening the ties of friendship between Scotland and Catalonia.”

“The way forward for Catalonia must be through peaceful and democratic solutions involving dialogue between the Spanish and Catalan authorities, respecting the right to self-determination of the Catalan people.” Joint-statement from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Catalan President Quim Torra

The statement reads: “Both leaders discussed the challenging and complex political situation in Catalonia, and agreed that the way forward for Catalonia must be through peaceful and democratic solutions involving dialogue between the Spanish and Catalan authorities, respecting the right to self-determination of the Catalan people.”

While the statement continues Sturgeon’s relative cautiousness in expressing a preferred outcome to the Catalan crisis or whether a referendum process that is not backed by Madrid is legitimate, it further cements the SNP’s position that self-determination is a right of all nations

The statement continues: “Both leaders agreed that in 21st century Europe issues of self-determination must ultimately be addressed through democratic referendums.

READ MORE: ‘Clara, we are with you’: Catalan President voices support for Clara Ponsati ahead of meeting with Sturgeon

“The terms of such referendums should be agreed between both parties and have corresponding international recognition.

“The 2014 Scottish independence referendum agreed between Edinburgh and London is the best example of such a process, underlining the fact that issues of constitutional sovereignty should always be resolved through peaceful and democratic means.”

With its unequivocal endorsement of referendums as the means of resolving conflicts such as those between Catalonia and Spain, it may be seen as a rebuke to the position of the Spanish Government, which has continued to resist both recognising the outcome of the October referendum, and calls for a further, recognised vote on the matter of Catalan independence.

Following his meeting with the first minister, Torra told BBC Scotland that it was "absolutely" right for the Catalan referendum to go ahead without permission from the Spanish state, saying: "In the Catalan case, after years and years trying to get this referendum agreed with Madrid, with the impossibility to do it in an agreed way, we decided to do it by ourselves.

"Each nation knows the moment in which its necessary to do things, to preserve the dignity of the nation. Maybe Scotland in the future has to take a decision like that. I don't know, but I respect for any decision the Scottish people might take in the future."

Commenting on the outcome of the meeting, Chris Bambery, co-author of the recently published ‘Catalonia Reborn’ with former SNP MP George Kerevan, told CommonSpace: “I think it is significant, in the sense that it’s the first time the first minister has met the Catalan president, and that represents a step forward in relations between Scotland and Catalonia.

“The statements from President Torra about how the destinies of Scotland and Catalonia are linked is a recognition of reality; independence movements in both countries look at each other, recognise each other and share a common identity.

“I think yesterday’s meeting is also significant because it was observed very carefully by Spain - they said they were monitoring the situation. And while the new change in government, the Pedro Sanchez administration, has taken a softer position in regards to Catalonia – transferring prisoners from the Madrid area to Catalonia, meeting with President Torra – we should not forget it supported all the measures that Rajoy implemented post-October referendum. And it has said that it will not countenance another independence referendum.

“It is a great achievement that two stateless nations such as Catalonia and Scotland strengthen their ties.” ANC Scotland spokesperson

“Catalonia needs allies, and in that sense the meeting was very important. It’s also important in terms of the European Union, because there is widespread dismay in Catalonia over the absolute silence of the European Union over what happened during the referendum itself, when the Spanish state tried to stop the referendum from happening by repression, as well as the subsequent jailings [and] court cases that have been brought against political figures, including local mayors and peaceful activists in Catalonia. On all of this, the European Union has remained silent.

“Therefore, developing links between Catalonia and Scotland, and potentially other nations and regions inside the European Union is important in trying to shift that situation as well.”

A spokesperson for ANC Scotland, the Scottish branch of the pro-independence grassroots campaign organisation Assemblea Nacional Catalana (or Catalan National Assembly) also told CommonSpace: “We are pleased with yesterday's meeting between MHP Quim Torra of Catalonia and the FM Nicola Sturgeon of Scotland.

“It is a great achievement that two stateless nations such as Catalonia and Scotland strengthen their ties. Giving support and collaboration to each other is vital in these difficult times, especially in Catalonia relative to the exiled people and the political prisoners, and the attacks to human rights and democracy.

“From our position we will do everything that is needed to help strengthen even more those ties and links, always defending the right of self-determination for both Catalonia and Scotland.”

Picture courtesy of Byronv2