Independence movements in europe: edinburgh and glasgow say “si”

Scottish separatists hope Catalonia will boost their own independence. Their solidarity irks Spain’s government.

Solidarity with Catalonia at a party conference of the Scottish National Party Photo: dpa

The Senyeras, the Catalan flags, still hang on many windows in Edinburgh and Glasgow. On the street, some wear a "Si" pin. Most of them are supporters of the Scottish National Party (SNP), the party of Scottish head of government Nicola Sturgeon. They are expressing their solidarity with the Catalans because they hope for a boost for their own country’s independence.

In 2014, the Scots themselves had voted on Scottish independence – and decided against it by 45 to 55 percent. However, the then British Prime Minister David Cameron was accommodating to the Scots at the time: They got their referendum, could choose the date and were allowed to formulate the text of the vote. Cameron’s calculation worked out, even if the unionists had to tremble until the end.

Scottish independence supporters are now watching closely what happens in Spain’s northeast. There are close links between the SNP and the Catalan independence movement. Hundreds of Scots traveled to Barcelona for the referendum and were hard to miss with their saltires, as the blue Scottish flag with the white diagonal cross is called. SNP veteran Tricia Marwick spoke at the demo the day before the referendum, and former Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond was interviewed on Catalan television.

The government in Madrid finally burst its collar. A Foreign Office spokesman railed, "It’s hard to understand how Scottish nationalists can come to Barcelona and show their support for an illegal act that not only tramples on the rights of the greater part of Catalan society, but also violates the constitution of a European democracy like Spain."

Catalan Defence Committee Scotland

The discord between the SNP and the government in Madrid already dates back to the Scottish referendum. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy warned at the time that a yes vote for independence would result in Scotland’s expulsion from the EU. He feared that an SNP success in the referendum could give momentum to the Catalan separatists.

The opposite effect is now hoped for by Scotland’s separatists – in addition to the SNP, these are organizations such as the left-wing Radical Independence Campaign (RIC). The Catalan Defence Committee Scotland was recently founded in Edinburgh. Its members include prominent human rights lawyer Aamer Anwar and the co-leader of the Scottish Green Party, Maggie Chapman. The committee wants the Scottish Parliament to "do everything in their power" to protect the civil rights of Catalans.

Nicola Sturgeon

"The case for independence is stronger than ever post-Brexit"

The second pillar of the campaign for a new Scottish referendum is Brexit. "The case for independence is bigger than ever after Brexit," Sturgeon said the other day. Voters, however, apparently don’t think so. After all, the SNP lost 21 of its 56 MPs in the House of Commons elections in June.

Nevertheless, Sturgeon wants to set a date for a new referendum at the end of next year. "The case for independence does not hinge solely on Brexit," she said. "But Brexit makes clear what can happen if we don’t have control over our own future."

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