Sunday, 5 November 2017

Catalonia makes me grateful for David Cameron

El Mundo editorial the morning after Catalan parliament declaration

There can’t be many good weeks to be David Cameron, the worst Prime Minister Britain had in modern times.

But last weekend, as I tried to unknot the constitutional mare’s nest of Catalonia, I actually felt grateful for his premiership.

The Catalan declaration of UDI has little effect on the Scottish independence debate, but imagine what would be happening now had Cameron not staged the 2014 referendum here.

Had Scotland not voted three years ago Nicola Sturgeon would be under crazy pressure from hard-core nationalists to follow through on the Catalan example.

They staged an illegal referendum, violently opposed by the Spanish state, and declared independence on the back of a 92 per cent yes vote on a 43 per cent turn out. Now their leaders are in court or residing in Belgium and the ugly mess is heading to a December election.

Some SNP MSPs are dancing in the streets at the Catalan crisis, though Sturgeon is canny enough to keep her distance.

I was in Mallorca last week, the Catalan island has a relationship with Barcelona akin to Shetland’s regard for Edinburgh.

They weren’t dancing there, and anyone celebrating the breakaway Catalan republic should be careful what they wish for.

Those making the most capital out of Catalan crisis are Europe’s far-right nationalists, people most SNP supporters would run a mile from. 

I remember years ago trying to make a programme about the legacy of the Spanish civil war and discovering, in my naivety, that an event celebrated as a great socialist struggle by Scots was regarded as a tragic, embarrassing taboo by Spaniards.

It was an early lesson in not assuming you can inhabit other people’s histories or political skin.  

As I have said before the only parallel that can be drawn between Scotland and Catalonia is that we had a legally agreed referendum and settled the issue. Not forever, perhaps, but for now, with a vote and and undisputed result.

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