As Iceland becomes first state to express concern to Spain over Catalan trials, Scottish Govt reiterates call for democratic solution

As Iceland becomes the first nation-state to publicly express concern to Spain over the trial of Catalan leaders, Scottish minister reiterates support for “the people of Catalonia to determine their own future”

  • 12 pro-independence Catalan political figures went on trial this week on charges of rebellion for their role in the 2017 Catalan independence referendum
  • Iceland is the only nation-state to express concern to Spain over the trials
  • External Affairs Secretary Fiona Hyslop has written to the Catalan Government, reiterating First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s view that Catalonia’s future should be decided by the ballot box
  • Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez calls for general elections of 28 April after Catalan parties derail 2019 budget

FOLLOWING a public intervention from Iceland over the ongoing trial of pro-independence Catalan leaders this week, a Scottish minister has written to the Catalan Government to reaffirm the Scottish Government’s support for “peaceful and democratic solutions” and for “the right of the people of Catalonia to determine their own future.”

Earlier this week, the Icelanic foreign affairs minister Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson told the newspaper Fréttablaðið: "We have repeatedly expressed our concern to the Spanish authorities, most recently in January when the Icelandic ambassador to Spain attended a regular meeting at the Spanish foreign ministry. Catalan issues have also been repeatedly addressed with Spain's ambassador to Iceland.”

The Icelandic Government has called upon their Spanish counterparts to look for a negotiated solution, emphasising the need to respect human rights. 

READ MORE: Analysis: The Catalan trials are political, regardless of what the Spanish Government says

Þórðarson went on to say: "We will continue to monitor events closely and consult with our main international partners. I myself took up the question of Catalonia with Spain's then foreign minister last year when we met at the UN Human Rights Council, and the conversation has been continued by officials."

Following this announcement, CommonSpace has learned that the External Affairs Secretary Fiona Hyslop has also made interventions on behalf of the Scottish Government, making representations to Spain’s ambassador to the UK to make clear the Scottish Government’s view that peaceful and democratic dialogue between the Spanish Government and Catalonia’s political leaders is essential. Hyslop has also written to representatives of the Catalan Government this week, expressing the same points.

A Scottish Government spokesperson told CommonSpace: “We support the right of the Catalan people to decide their own future and we maintain Catalonia’s destiny should be decided through the ballot box, not in the courts. We will continue to encourage the Spanish and Catalan Governments to resolve their differences by mutually agreed democratic means.”

“We have consistently expressed our firm view that the way forward for Catalonia must be through peaceful and democratic solutions involving dialogue between the Spanish and Catalan authorities.” External Affairs Secretary Fiona Hyslop

In a 12 February letter to Jennifer Velasco, public affairs officer with the Catalan Government’s UK and Ireland delegation, Hyslop reiterated the position set forth by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon earlier this week as the trial of Catalan leaders began in Madrid.

Hyslop writes: “As I hope you know, the Scottish Government continues to follow very closely developments in Catalonia.

“We have consistently expressed our firm view that the way forward for Catalonia must be through peaceful and democratic solutions involving dialogue between the Spanish and Catalan authorities, respecting the right of the people of Catalonia to determine their own future. We continue to do so.”

READ MORE: ‘Self-determination is a right’: Solidarity protests mobilised across Scotland as Catalan trial begins

Regarding the case of one of the defendants in the current trial, former President of the Parliament of Catalonia Carme Forcadell, and a manifesto associated with her passed on by the Catalan Government, Hyslop continues: “It would of course not be appropriate for the Scottish Government to comment on or to seek to intervene in a particular case being dealt with by the criminal justice system of another EU country.

“Nevertheless I want to assure you that we strongly support the views expressed in the manifesto to the effect that:

- A parliamentary democracy cannot allow the political debates in its parliament to be censored, and

- Political and institutional conflicts should, wherever possible, be resolved through dialogue and not through the courts.

“I wish you well in your endeavours,” Hyslop concludes.

On 12 February, the day the trial of the Catalan leaders began, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon wrote on Twitter: “These trials of elected politicians should concern all democrats. The future of Catalonia should be decided through the ballot box, not in the courts. I am sending my best wishes today to the Catalan President and those facing trial. Let’s hope the process is demonstrably fair.”

Today [15 February], the crisis in both Spain and Catalonia escalated with the announcement by Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez that general elections will be held on 28 April, after the failure of his government to secure a budget due to lack of support from pro-independence Catalan parties.

Referring to the ongoing political stalemate with Catalonia, Sanchez said he remains willing to hold dialogue within the framework of the "the Constitution and the law,” but criticised Catalonia’s pro-independence parties for blocking the 2019 budget, following the Spanish Government’s rejection of Catalan demands on self-determination.

Picture courtesy of Fotomovimiento

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