There was a clear spillover from Scot­land to Cat­alo­nia, be­cause the Cata­lans saw that the Scots were able to have a ref­er­en­dum — and wanted one of their own

Irish Independent - Weekend Review - - FRONT PAGE - THE SCOT­TISH IN­FLU­ENCE

In strate­gic terms, the Span­ish gov­ern­ment this week scored an own goal more spec­tac­u­lar than any of the foot­ball ac­ro­bat­ics you would see from Lionel Messi in the Camp Nou sta­dium in Barcelona. They sent in po­lice to ba­ton charge gran­nies. They smashed down glass doors in schools, and seized bal­lot boxes, as peo­ple voted in a ref­er­en­dum on in­de­pen­dence in Cat­alo­nia.

As one com­men­ta­tor re­marked, the mes­sage from Span­ish au­thor­i­ties seemed to be: “In the name of democ­racy, re­frain from vot­ing — or else.”

It was hardly sur­pris­ing when an ac­tivist talk­ing to the BBC com­pared the Span­ish ap­proach to that of an abu­sive hus­band, des­per­ately try­ing to cling on to his wife. He says he loves her, and that he can’t live with­out her. Then, he beats her up to stop her from leav­ing. Other for­eign ob­servers of the Span­ish com­pared it to the ham-fisted re­sponse of the Bri­tish to our own Easter Ris­ing, although not a shot was fired by the Cata­lans.

We were re­minded that at the start of the 1916 re­bel­lion, the ma­jor­ity of the Dublin pop­u­la­tion seemed to be against an up­ris­ing. But bru­tal Bri­tish re­pres­sion el­e­vated the cause of the rebels and led to their ul­ti­mate vic­tory in the war of in­de­pen­dence.

Although the ref­er­en­dum held in chaotic cir­cum­stances showed a 90pc vote for in­de­pen­dence, it was hardly a fair rep­re­sen­ta­tion of pub­lic opin­ion be­cause of the cir­cum­stances in which the poll was held. The un­of­fi­cial na­ture of the poll dis­cour­aged the size­able pop­u­la­tion of Cata­lans against in­de­pen­dence from turn­ing out.

Pro­fes­sor Michael Keat­ing, an au­thor­ity on sep­a­ratist move­ments at Aberdeen Univer­sity, says other polls have shown that sup­port­ers of com­plete in­de­pen­dence are in the mi­nor­ity in Cat­alo­nia at around 45pc.

But with their vi­o­lent re­ac­tion, the Span­ish au­thor­i­ties may have done won­ders to en­hance the Cata­lan cause. It turned Cata­lans who were luke­warm about in­de­pen­dence against the Span­ish cen­tral gov­ern­ment, and it cer­tainly won them sym­pa­thy across Europe.

Will it light the touch­pa­per for other sep­a­ratist move­ments on the con­ti­nent that have been seek­ing greater au­ton­omy or in­de­pen­dence?

Karen Devine, lec­turer in In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions at Dublin City Univer­sity, be­lieves it could have a domino ef­fect, be­cause these na­tion­al­ist move­ments tend to in­flu­ence each other.

Across Europe, gov­ern­ment lead­ers and EU of­fi­cials found it dif­fi­cult to re­act ap­pro­pri­ately.

On the one hand, they felt obliged to sup­port the con­sti­tu­tional po­si­tion of the Span­ish gov­ern­ment as fel­low EU mem­bers. Some fear dis­in­te­gra­tion on their own doorstep. But how could they, as sup­posed up­hold­ers of democ­racy and the rule of law, sup­port a regime that ba­ton charges its own pop­u­la­tion as it ex­er­cises its right to vote?

Dr Devine told Re­view: “This is a very un­com­fort­able po­si­tion for the Ir­ish Gov­ern­ment be­cause we are a post-colo­nial na­tion that has al­ways sup­ported the right of states to self­de­ter­mi­na­tion.”

Pro­fes­sor Michael Keat­ing is scep­ti­cal about idea of sep­a­ratist move­ments hold­ing copy­cat polls across the con­ti­nent as they try to go it alone, but he ac­knowl­edges the in­flu­ence of Scot­land on the Cata­lan sit­u­a­tion. “There was a clear spillover from Scot­land to Cat­alo­nia, be­cause the Cata­lans saw that the Scots were able to have a ref­er­en­dum — and wanted one of their own.”

Pro­fes­sor Keat­ing be­lieves Scot­land re­mains the most likely ter­ri­tory in Europe to seek full in­de­pen­dence.

The vote in the UK to quit the EU against the wishes of

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