Ifan Morgan Jones
The Spanish government’s clampdown on democracy in Catalonia has been so worrying that even the Telegraph was moved to use the headline ‘Franco lives again’ in one of yesterday’s editions.
You don’t have to be a ‘nationalist’ to be appalled. So it’s been disappointing to see British politicians attempt to justify their opposition to allowing the people of Catalonia a vote on independence.
The motive for doing so is clear – they fear that if Catalonia becomes independent, and worse still make a success of it, it could start a domino rally in other stateless nations.
Scotland is second on the list after Catalonia, and perhaps the national movement in Wales would move up a gear.
However, what the arguments against giving the people of Catalonia a vote on independence reveal is how contradictory their arguments against Scottish and Welsh independence are as well.
Take for instance the following tweet from Chris Bryant:
I disagree. The referendum is illegal. And this is all about the rich abandoning the poor. Better solidarity is a united Spain rico y pobre https://t.co/DYcdIThhhp
— Chris Bryant (@RhonddaBryant) September 21, 2017
The ‘it’s illegal’ argument is clearly daft. As a politician Chris Bryant would know that what is legal isn’t necessarily right in many instances, otherwise he would never have voted to change a law.
This line of thinking is deeply worrying, however. It’s worth remembering that the first Scottish independence referendum got the go-ahead largely because neither side thought that ‘Yes’ had a hope of winning.
Catalonia’s treatment raises the spectre that if Scotland does call a referendum in the wake of Brexit – with perhaps more favourable polling – the country would face similar treatment.
After all, these arguments against a vote in Catalonia show that British politicians are happy to argue, when it suits them, that the people shouldn’t be allowed a democratic voice.
They can simply outlaw a vote and then claim ‘it’s illegal’, and so wrong.
Too big, too rich, too clever
But more revealing is the argument that Catalonia is too rich to be independent, and that it has a moral duty to stay in the union to help poorer nations that are part of Spain.
This is deeply ironic because one of the most consistent unionist arguments against Scottish and Welsh independence has been that they’re too poor to be independent.
Presumably, if Wales or Scotland were ever to pull themselves up by the boot-straps and become prosperous parts of the UK, the argument would suddenly flip the other way.
From being too poor to be independent, they would be too rich to be independent. We can’t win, I suppose.
The argument is especially galling because the London-centric, trickle down British economic model means that the UK includes both the richest and poorest areas in western Europe.
It’s not a union per se that creates equality but the fair distribution of wealth within in, something these same politicians lecturing Catalonia haven’t been able to, or don’t want to, achieve.
So Catalunya’s secession would be unjust on account of the rich leaving the poor; on that logic Wales’ secession is an imperative of justice
— Huw L Williams (@HuwL1oyd) September 22, 2017
Personally. I have no opinion one way or the other on whether Catalonia should be independent – it’s a matter for them.
But the spurious arguments some British nationalists have employed against even giving them a chance to vote on the matter are very telling.
It shows that there’s little point in engaging logically with their arguments in the hope of changing their minds.
They will simply move the goalposts. It’s Britain’s survival that matters above all and all arguments – even ones for basic democracy – are secondary.