Catalonia: What’s going on?

On a recent visit to Catalonia, Women for Independence activist Carolyn Leckie addressed a number of public meetings, gave media interviews and met leading figures in the struggle for Catalan self-determination. This included four political parties, several trade union leaders and the President of the Catalan National Assembly. Here she speaks to Restless Land about her impressions of the growing conflict between Madrid and Barcelona.

RL We’ve been getting some confusing reports in the Scottish and UK media about Catalonia. So what exactly is going on over there?

CL I thought I knew a bit about Catalonia, but the first thing I learned as soon I arrived was that most people in Scotland don’t really know what’s going on. When I left, people asked me: ‘Why are you still going? Catalonia has cancelled its referendum.”

The real position, I soon discovered, is more complicated. Polls show that there is now a clear majority for an independent republic. But the Madrid government has always been terrified of losing Catalonia, and the Spanish constitution prohibits the break-up of the state.

So when Artur Mas, the president of the Catalan devolved government, declared a referendum for 9 November, it was pretty much inevitable that the Spanish judges would declare it illegal. So Mas, under pressure from two sides – the mass movement for a Catalan republic on the one side, and the Madrid government and judicial system on the other – decided to go ahead with a consultative referendum.

The people and parties I met all supported this move, because although it would have no legal force, it could show the world the scale of support for independence, and thus escalate pressure on the Spanish state. Over 30,000 volunteers were signed up to organise the plebiscite, and all the signs were pointing to massive turnout.

But even this compromise seems too much for the Spanish state to stomach. In the past few days, even that public consultation has also been declared illegal. Things are highly volatile and the situation is changing by the day. But at this stage, it appears that the Catalan parties are determined to go ahead with this consultative vote.

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First independence – then aim for the sky

Roz Paterson, co-author of Restless Land, explains why she’s one of the 50,000 who joined the SNP in the aftermath of the referendum.

Before: Standing on Inverness High Street, flanked on all sides by saltires and YES placards, in the midst of a crowd that stretched further than I could see, the shout went up. Ragged at first, but firming up quickly, “Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes!” Old people, shop-workers, kids, hippies, prosperous middle-aged couples, that man that does the jewellery, students…”Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes!” The surge of crowd energy was palpable, the air felt charged, even the saltire-blue sky seemed to collude…”Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes!”

After: I woke my nine-year old daughter in the morning after a night in which I didn’t sleep. I said, sorry, it was No. She said, crestfallen, does that mean we have to keep the nuclear weapons? The sky was still dark, four days till the autumnal equinox and then the descent into winter.

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‘Restless Land: a radical history that needs to be in every school and college’ – review

The Scottish Socialist Voice has just carried Pam Currie’s review of Restless Land. Pam is a long-standing campaigner for independence and women’s rights, whose first political action was to join the Vigil for a Scottish Parliament at Calton Hill in 1992.

Well, I thought when I agreed to write this review that I’d be starting with an apology. I got my hands on a copy at the Glasgow launch in late July, but in full indyref campaign mode, and returning to work as a lecturer in a chaotic post-merger college, I was quite sure I would never read the whole book in time to write a review.

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We’re on Twitter and Facebook

We’re now on Twitter @restlessland1 and Facebook @restlessland. Please come and talk to us and share. Help us spread the word about the book, Restless Land, and independence for Scotland – ‘the next logical step for Scotland if you look at the last millennium and a half of Scotland’s history’ said Alan in a video interview, which we’re cutting together at the moment.

Download free sample chapters

We’ve made available for download the contents, foreword and first two chapters of Restless Land. They begin with what little we know of the Picts, where recent excavations have shown ‘evidence of a highly sophisticated culture, capable of producing magnificent art and extraordinary architecture’ and end with the Declaration of Arbroath where ‘one passage stands out, not only for its defiant assertion of national sovereignty, but also, almost half a millennium before the French Revolution, its renunciation of the divine right of kings.’

Download the sample chapters now (PDF 3MB)