- Albert Gea/Reuters
- Catalonia plans to hold an independence referendum on Sunday, which could separate Barcelona from the rest of Spain. Spain has repeatedly attempted to halt the referendum, and now Scottish politicians are lining up to support Catalonia’s right to vote. Scottish MSP Ross Greer told Business Insider that Spain’s actions have been “incredibly heavy-handed.” Spanish officials say the referendum requires the permission of the Spanish government.
As Catalonia prepares to hold an independence referendum on Sunday, Spain is doubling down on efforts to halt the vote. Now, the region, which is home to Barcelona, has found an ally: Scotland.
Last week, 18 Scottish MSPs, some of whom campaigned for independence from the UK, signed a cross-party open letter urging Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to allow the referendum to go ahead. The letter said:
“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.”
Ross Greer, the Green Party MSP who wrote the letter, emphasised that he and his co-signers had “no position” on Catalonian independence but wanted to guarantee Catalonians’ right to decide on their future.
“This is not about endorsing Catalonian independence, but defending their [Catalonians’] right to self-determination,” Greer told Business Insider.
“The reality is that the Spanish government is losing face here because their response has been entirely over the top. It has been incredibly heavy-handed.”
Nicola Sturgeon, the leader of the pro-independence Scottish National Party, also said last week that Catalonians should have a right to vote and that Spain’s efforts to stop the referendum were “of concern,” according to the BBC. The Scottish government also issued a similar statement on its website.
Interesting. The Scottish government has released a statement on Catalonia stressing the right to self-determination. pic.twitter.com/cSUYSqu5rE
— Jamie Ross (@JamieRoss7) September 16, 2017
Since the Catalonian regional government passed a bill to hold the referendum on September 7, Madrid has continuously insisted that the referendum is illegal and attempted to undermine the vote. Spain:
- Immediately suspended the regional law to hold the referendum, while the constitutional court hears arguments on whether it breaches the constitution. Arrested 14 senior regional officials, raided offices, seized 45,000 letters, and confiscated more than 1.3 million posters and flyers linked to independence efforts. Ordered 22 Catalonian officials to pay daily fines of between €6,000 and €12,000 (£5,300/$7,000 to £10,500/$14,000) for every day they continue to organise the referendum, according to a constitutional court ruling reported by the BBC. Forced the .cat Foundation, an internet organisation, to block websites ending with the .cat domain extension that provided information about the referendum. Sent thousands of national paramilitary police officers to Barcelona to stop Sunday’s referendum, as reported by Agence France-Presse. Threatened to arrest Carles Puigdemont, Catalonia’s regional president, according to the Guardian.
- Albert Gea/Reuters
As well as efforts by Scottish politicians, the Young Scots for Independence (also known as SNP Youth) has organised a trip to Barcelona to help its Catalonian counterpart, the Young Republican Left of Catalonia (JERC), stage peaceful demonstrations in support of the vote.
Seventeen members are flying out on Wednesday and will be joined by activists from other left-wing political groups including Plaid Cymru, the political party organising for Welsh independence, and Sanca Veneta, which campaigns for the Veneto region’s independence from Italy.
Greer, the MSP, welcomed the SNP Youth’s efforts, saying there should be “as many international observers as possible” on the ground on Sunday.
- Albert Gea/Reuters
Rory Steel, SNP Youth’s vice-convener, told BI: “There are so many similarities between Scotland and Catalonia and members felt it was important to give our backing and not be silent. We’re proud of our links to Catalonia and are glad to be backing the Catalans at this important time.”
He added: “Madrid’s reaction can only be described as authoritarian. There are striking similarities to Spain’s fascist past. The international community has fallen silent. We need European leaders to publicly condemn what Madrid is doing to crush a democratic vote.”
Spanish officials have emphasised the difference between Scottish and Catalonian independence, telling BuzzFeed News that Catalonian independence needs the permission of the Spanish government.
“If Madrid seizes the ballots, the Catalans will write on notepaper,” Steel said. “If they arrest politicians, more will take their place. If they turn off the power, the Catalans will vote in candlelight. Nothing will deter them.”