Friday, 28 February 2014

I'll take more than a few rules

In his Western Mail column last Saturday, Rhodri Morgan touched on the differences between independence movements in different countries.  He talked specifically about the “holding hands” demonstration in Catalunya when one and a half million people linked hands all the way from the French border to Valencia, a distance of 300 miles.
That”, said Rhodri, “is what a mass movement in support of an independence referendum ought to look like.”  In comparison, we in Wales can only dream of the time when we might have mass support for the concept of independence along with a political movement committed to achieving it.
I suspect that part of what makes the Catalan movement so strong is precisely the way that they been told that they 'cannot' have independence.  The establishment in the UK (in modern times, at least) has never been so blunt and obstinate in its refusal – tolerance is sometimes more effective than oppression.
In the mid-1970s I was the Plaid Cymru guest speaker at an SNP rally.  One of my fellow speakers was Jordi Pujol (who later became president of the Generalitat of Catalunya, a post he held for 23 years).  At the time, he wasn’t arguing for independence.  Not necessarily because he didn’t want to, but because it was a crime against the state in Franco’s Spain to even put the case, and he had served a couple of years in prison already for his political activity.  He argued instead for much more autonomy within a federal state.
With the dawning of a more democratic Spain, people have been freer and more confident in putting the arguments; arbitrary imprisonment is no longer something that they have to fear.  But one major remnant of the Franco regime remains, in this context – the legal fiction that independence is impossible because the constitution forbids it.
Laws, processes, and even constitutions put in place by people can survive only as long as the people allow them to.  The Spanish central authorities will, no doubt, continue to say “no”; but faced with a movement for independence which can mobilise 1½ million people – 20% of the entire population – in a single demonstration, they’ll need a better argument than the wording of the constitution.


Anonymous said...

Exactly John. The style and tone of the local nationalism is shaped by the attitude of the "parent" or imperial state and how it behaves.

In the UK there have been concessions, no written constitutional rules.

In Spain there has been dictatorship. Admittedly that gave way to significant local autonomy (more than Wales or Scotland have) for some parts of the Spanish state, but the experience under Franco bolstered the resolve of Catalonia and the Basque Country particularly.

Another factor plays in. Economy. Catalonia, the Basque Country and to an extent Scotland have a strong economic case. Wales is more like Galicia where the economic case is not as defensible. But there is nothing inevitable about that.

Anonymous said...

The only thing stopping independence in Wales is the people of Wales.

I'm pretty sure the people of England would be happy to unshackle themselves of a most ungrateful bunch of spongers.