Saturday, 26 September 2015

Insular and Greedy

Patrick West writes:

Catalonia heads to the polls this weekend in its regional elections, and most forecasters predict that the pro-independence coalition Junts pel Sí (Together for Yes) will secure a slim majority.

Should this happen, the Catalan president, Artur Mas, has promised to begin drafting a constitution for Catalonia and work towards negotiating complete secession from Madrid.

Not everyone is happy about this.

Spain’s mainstream conservative and socialist parties are fiercely opposed to Catalan independence, as are the Greens and the anti-austerity Podemos party, who prefer a federal compromise.

The EU has promised to make life difficult for an independent Catalonia, warning that it will have to re-apply to the organisation, something Madrid might veto. 

The Bank of Spain has issued forebodings about a ‘bank freeze’ in any eventuality, while the Spanish football league says that clubs in an independent Catalonia would be banished from La Liga. Whither FC Barcelona?

The independence-seekers do have friends, the best known being Scottish nationalists, who see in the Catalan cause something akin to their own.

‘Catalonia is a nation, and has a right to choose. That is absolutely clear’, said the SNP’s main Europe spokesman Alyn Smith MEP this week.

‘The alternative is simply anti-democratic, anti-European, and potentially explosive’, he concluded, referring to the averse politicians in Madrid.

For some decades, secessionists in Catalonia and Scotland have made common cause. Yet Catalonia is precisely the opposite of Scotland in this regard.

It’s the richest region in the Kingdom of Spain, not one of the poorest [nor is Scotland, as a whole, a poorer part of the United Kingdom], and separatism is driven chiefly by resentment that Catalans put far more into the treasury and the economy than what they get back.

Much of the impetus for independence stems from fiscal and cultural conservatives (the ones hoisting the Catalan flag with a blue triangle) who have little in common with Nicola Sturgeon’s Chavez-lite SNP [hardly!].

Sure, there remain language battles in the region, centred on the teaching of the Catalan language in schools, but today’s quarrels are nothing compared to the ferocious cultural and linguistic oppression foisted upon Catalonia in the Franco era (immeasurably harsher than anything imposed on Scotland).

Yet Catalonia’s cries of victimhood ring somewhat hollow today.

Rather than it being akin to Scotland going solo, Catalonia cutting lose from Spain would be like London and the south-east abandoning the rest of the United Kingdom, fed up at having to subsidise its poorer parts.

In short, to the rest of Europe, Catalonia’s dash to break free is starting to look a bit insular and greedy.

Not unlike Scottish Nationalism at all, then.

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