The will of the separatists of Catalonia to organize a referendum of self-determination enjoys strong support in Scotland, three years after a failed attempt of independence in this British territory, and more and more voices raise against its prohibition by Madrid, deemed undemocratic.
“We support the Catalans,” said Rory Steel, a leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) youth organization, who is about to fly to the Catalan capital Barcelona with some 20 other young independentists.
“We go there mainly to learn a little more about them, to exchange our experiences and our expertise (…) but also to support them,” he told AFP.
Another delegation, composed of politicians and writers in particular, plans to carry out an observation mission while Madrid launched this week a large police and judicial operation in Catalonia. This complicates the organization of a ballot that the regional authorities decided to maintain on 1 October despite the opposition of the central government which declared it unconstitutional.
Scottish Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon on Thursday called for respect for the right to self-determination in Catalonia, while hoping for a return to dialogue between Madrid and Barcelona.
While Mrs Sturgeon acknowledged that it was “entirely legitimate for Spain to oppose the independence of Catalonia” , she nevertheless expressed “concern that a State, whatever it might be, could deny the right of a people to democratically express their will “.
“The right to self-determination of peoples is an important international principle and I truly hope that it will be respected in Catalonia and everywhere else,” the leader of the independence party SNP told the Scottish Regional Parliament this week.
Not that the nationalists
Scottish support does not come only from nationalists. About fifteen Scottish MPs, opposed or not to the independence of their territory, members of the SNP but also of the Labor Party, the Liberal Democratic Party or the Green Party, signed an open letter to the Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy denouncing the actions of his government.
“The Spanish government claims to act to defend democracy, but the threat of legal action against hundreds of democratically elected representatives and acts of repression against an elected government, media organizations and citizens are by no means democratic acts” ,they warned.
“The worst we can do now is to let the Madrid regime crush democracy in Catalonia,” said former MP SNP George Kerevan, founder of a multi-party parliamentary group on Catalonia. “If you believe in a Scottish democracy, if you believe in Scotland’s right to vote, then you have to defend the right of Catalonia to vote, we are Catalans and the Catalans are Scottish.”
A precedent for Scotland?
The Scottish National Party SNP had secured a referendum on the independence of Scotland in September 2014 from London, which it had lost, with 55% of voters choosing to remain in the United Kingdom.
Pro-independence as opponents then hailed the campaign as a model of democratic engagement. Only a few arrests had taken place, mainly for minor disturbances such as egg rolls.
On the eve of the launch of the Brexit in March, Scottish deputies authorized by a vote their Prime Minister to ask the central government to organize a new ballot. But the project was put on hold after the poor performance of the Scottish nationalists in the June legislative elections.
The actions taken in Spain to try to prevent the vote, such as the seizure of millions of ballots, shocked Scotland, where some fear that it could inspire London if the Spanish government were to achieve its goals.
“It is not impossible that the British state will do the same in the coming years if it appears that Scotland is moving towards independence,” said Jonathon Shafi, founder of the Radical Independence Campaign, the campaign for Scottish independence, questioned by AFP.
“If we allow the Spanish state to set a precedent (…) then this precedent will not be worth only for Spain, but also for the United Kingdom and beyond,” he continued. “It is a question for Europe as a whole, and a question for democracy everywhere”.