As the Catalan crisis intensifies, people in most parts of the UK will be wondering how it will affect Brexit and the future of the EU. In Scotland, where nationalists are keen supporters of Catalan independence, and SNP fanatics sometimes drive around with Catalan flags sticking out of their vehicles, the situation has other implications.
Even without violence, we are already beginning to see the economic consequences of the disputed referendum with banks and other major corporations moving their legal domiciles out of Catalonia. The uncertainty will, of course, lead to investment in Catalonia drying up.
In Scotland, the ‘indy-ref’, as it was called, did discourage investment, and the combination of an economically illiterate SNP government and continuing nationalist mouthing-off about ‘indy-ref 2’ continues to hinder the economy.
The population of Catalonia is divided, with only around half supporting independence. This in itself augurs ill for the region’s future success. Fortunately, support for Scottish separation has subsided since the 2014 referendum, when it stood at 45 per cent.
Incidentally, had Spain been constitutionally able to allow a referendum at an earlier date, it might well have had a similar result to Scotland, and taken the wind out of the Catalan nationalists’ sails.
Unfortunately, things are now well past that point. The Catalan parliament has declared independence, and the Spanish government has revoked Catalan autonomy.
Anyone who has witnessed Scottish nationalists in action and has an insight into their mentality must fear for the future of Catalonia. The SNP has the psychology not of a party, but more that of a movement or even a cult. Its activists believe implicitly in the justness of their cause, and the wickedness of all opposition to it. They are immune to all rational argument.
During the indy-ref it was common to see ‘yes’ posters in the windows of homes, but very rare to see ‘no’ posters, even though ‘no’ went on to win the referendum. The reason was that many ‘no’ voters felt intimidated by the ‘yes’ campaign, and frightened that a poster in the window would invite a brick. Similarly, very few cars carried then or carry now pro-Union stickers, while ‘yes’ and Saltire stickers are reasonably common.
With Spain having already replaced Catalan police chiefs, the crisis intensifies. It would not take much for violence to break out, and in the current euphoric state of Catalan nationalism to spread beyond control.
Of course, the ghosts of the Spanish civil war, in which Catalonia chose the republican side, are not far away. Spain’s feared gendarmerie, the Guardia Civil, which could soon be deployed, still uses the fasces as a symbol.
The behaviour of the European Union, which should have played the role of an honest mediator in this conflict, has been cynical and short-sighted. As the EU focuses on Catalonia, a hard Brexit becomes ever more likely. Here in Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon has been talking up the injustice of taking Scotland out of the EU ‘against our will’. How delicious that her beloved EU is taking the wrong side on Catalan independence.
As neither Madrid nor Barcelona can back down, the crisis could all too easily tip over into a civil war. Even without war, the dislocation in Catalonia will prove a bitter and deterring lesson for Scottish voters on the dangers of petty nationalism. Viewed in this light, Scottish nationalist support for Catalan independence is brutally ironic.