Monday, 30 October 2017

Lessons from Catalonia.

I could write at length about the differences between Scotland and Catalonia. Particularly about how one is a historic nation forming a voluntary part of the world's oldest democracy, The other, on the other hand has never, ever, been an internationally recognised independent country and belongs to a modern state which has within living memory been a fascist dictatorship. Most particularly of all however, that  the former, without a written Constitution, has to make the rules up as we go along while the latter has an overwhelmingly popularly adopted written constitution that sets these rules.

But that's not the point I want to make. The point I want to make is about nationalists here not being bothered about the effect of their actions on people's everyday lives.

You see, what exactly was/is the "strategy" of the Catalonian Nationalists? Suppose on Friday afternoon the democratically elected Government of Spain had thrown their hand in and said "OK, you are independent." How would then even supporters of Catalonian Independence been able to pay their taxes to the "Government of Catalonia"?

Well actually they wouldn't have been, for only the Spanish Government has the administrative machinery to receive and process all major taxes duly paid, through the Agencia Estatal de Administración Tributaria. (The Spanish HMRC).

And how would pensioners or benefit claimants of the most enthusiastic nationalist bent have been able to receive their pensions or benefits? Well, actually, only the Spanish Government has the ability to make these payments. Indeed I suspect only the Spanish Government even knows who is entitled to receive them.  And even if the Spanish Government did a data dump to their Catalonian successors, the latter wouldn't have any money or technical machinery to pay the pensions or benefits. Or indeed public sector wages. As, as I repeat, they don't have any money or the technical ability to receive taxes to raise that money. Indeed, initially. logically, an independent Catalonia won't even have any legally levied taxes to collect! Spain had levied taxes and the regional government of Catalonia (as part of Spain) had levied taxes but on the declaration of independence both of these bodies ceased to have any legal jurisdiction in "free" Catalonia.. All of which would take, at best, months to sort out. Which kind of puts the legitimate disquiet over a UK six week delay in Universal Credit payments commencing in to some perspective.

Instant Catalonian Independence is a nonsensical proposition. That's even before you start on the flight of Corporate Capital that was the inevitable consequence of there being an uncertain (I put that kindly) regulatory framework in an independent Catalonia. Or indeed the impact, in an area hugely dependent on tourism, of the reluctance of anybody to take their holidays where the local administration was in a state of chaos and the medical services going unpaid.

Instant Catalonian Independence is a nonsense even judged against the proposition the SNP put before the Scottish people on 18th September 2014. For that was not for Independence on 19th September 2014. It was for independence fully nineteen months later once precisely the issues I refer to above, in a Catalonian context, had had the chance to be addressed. And, don't forget, many, even on the Yes side, thought that nineteen month period to be unrealistically short.

Just as even the most enthusiastic Brexiteer didn't think we could leave the EU on the day after the referendum and is slowly accepting that even the article 50 timetable might be an unduly optimistic goal.

So why is Catalan Independence being taken seriously? I'll let you into a secret. It is not. Not by Spain, not by the EU, not by any Country in the world. Not even, really, by Catalonia. In Catalonia it is really aimed at getting Spain to negotiate about something more sensible. Although that now has clearly been a miscalculation.

The only place it is being taken seriously is by the governing party in Scotland, even their Green allies having adopted a low profile.

And why is that? Because, for many in the SNP, possibly even a majority, having a viable plan for "independence" isn't actually necessary. It is a decision to be taken based on emotion, not reason. Whether taxes could be levied, or pensions, benefits and wages paid is unimportant. What is important is, literally, a flag and a song. Which is pretty much all Catalonia proposed to start off with.

And that puts our own notorious White Paper into context. It wasn't just over optimistic. it was actively deceitful. But to the true believers that didn't matter.

Don't take my word for it, listen to the words of Mhari Black at the SNP Conference earlier this month.

"We might not know where we are going, but we sure as hell know what we are walking away from".

"We might not know where we are going".......for which she received a standing ovation.

Personally, before I set off on any journey, I want to know my intended destination. But mibbee that's just me. Who knows, next year I might go to Catalonia.


  1. Yes, sad but true. A flag, a song and no idea. Pardon my ignorance but I thought the first duty of any government was the well being of the population and the security of the state? In both Catalonia and Scotland apparently significant numbers of, presumably, intelligent people are willing to forego those precepts merely in order to stick it to Madrid/London or whatever their euphemism for the apparent 'oppressor' is.

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