Saturday, 15 September 2012

Of Scots, the Union and the EU.

This week there was a dramatic development in the world of European Nationalist Movements, and it wasn’t in Scotland, but the root cause will be the same vehicle of deliverance, yet the destinations will be wholly different.

Catalonia, Spain. More than 1 ½ million people took to the streets to demand independence this week. The support for independence is such that the province’s premier, and it is a province irrespective of aspects of nationhood, was forced to publically change his stance from one of more federalism to stating he’d have been on the march but for “other issues”.

Catalonia, like much of the rest of Spain was united by royal marriage in 1469, a little after that Granada was conquered and we’ve pretty much got the Spain of today. Prior to the formation of Spain there were fundamentally absolute monarchs in each area, afterwards there was an absolute monarchy.

The key aspect for Catalonia is there were no treaties involved outside betrothal contracts, no independent votes, and in the 20th century as the Spanish Civil War was underway Catalonia was forcibly retained within Spain. Spain is therefore categorically one country with one constitution which the Catalans also endorsed – arguably not in a fully democratic fashion; individual referendums were not held in each region. Spain is therefore one nation, and allegedly indivisible.

Against this is the popular will of the Catalan’s today. They indisputably fall under the UN’s definition of a people who can elect to choose their own path. Should they choose the path of nationhood it would be almost impossible for Spain to deny them, but they’d have to do it under present circumstances as a Unilateral Declaration of Independence. They would become a new nation state.

Here’s where the situation with Scotland begins to differ. Both entities are fundamentally fed up with a lack of democracy and with resources being siphoned off to “help others” when the deprivation at home should be addressed first. Catalonia is asking for a bailout from Spain, demanding it actually, no strings attached, but none knows the position of Catalonia without the “Spanish Drain”. Scotland does not require any such financial support.

Scotland is a historical and modern nation; a fact that most people don’t think about unless asked. However, almost all concede Scots are nationals of their country, Scotland. That we hold a UK passport is now little different than being Dutch and of the European Union. A main reason for the differentiation is that Scotland entered into a treaty with England to create a single state. Westminster might have us as regions, may prefer to view it that way, but Nations under a single state we remain.

If the Union of Scotland and England, circa 1707 is dissolved, then we become again individual nation States. Wales and Northern Ireland then have serious choices to make. It will be a case, in respect of statehood, where two became one then become two again. It’s really that simple.

In the easiest of applications, the “best fit” under international law, because of that treaty, we’d both become successor states.

Here’s the key, both Scotland and England should be successor states.

Spain and Catalonia are a different issue altogether; they’d be original state and new state.

A Mr. Bailly of the EU, not a noted constitutional expert by any means, and possibly much more familiar with Spain after her more recent constitutional struggles spoke out when asked about accession status. His voice echoed others as he spelled out the criteria for an accession state, but he was taken out of context (as usual) by the UK mainstream press which purported to show that Scotland would be “Out the EU” if “Independence is IN” – they created, as appears their wont, a major Bru-Ha-Ha for no reason. These “purported” journalists need only familiarise themselves with treaty law and they’d know there was no story here.

But then “no story here” suits neither Westminster, nor the need to sell copy. The truthful story that both Scotland and England should be treated identically is not a story they apparently wish to print.

Following the stramash in the Gee-Bee press, the same Mr. Bailly came forward and issued a statement that his comments were specifically NOT aimed at the Scottish situation, adding additional clarification by stating that both Scotland and the R-UK could face a situation of being treated as equals in an evolving situation by Brussels, where merely a majority vote was required for confirmation of member status.

In other words, Scotland and England would be identically placed successor states.

“No story here” appears to have been the order of the day again, it wasn’t reported.

Therefore the independence movement in Catalonia while having the same vehicle and drivers as Scots nationalism, both serviced by the UN’s convention on human rights, will take the individuals of each aspiring state to their respective destinations.

The destinations are quite different however, because each will travel the same path until they reach a fork in the road after a formal vote.

Catalonia will travel the path of secession and take the road to being a new state.

Scotland, under the Vienna Convention will simply dissolve a treaty, and will take the road to being a restored state.

England will also be forced to take the road to being a restored state – the treaty the UK existed under will simply no longer legally exist, the UK will no longer legally exist.

Both Scotland and England will be successor states.

England and the other nations/regions of the UK will need to decide on a new name, articles of Union, or affirm the old. Last time it took several years, most of the 1920’s in fact.

Westminster doesn’t want it because the people will be severely enfranchised, it will provide an opportunity for reform that has been perennially stifled.

For the rest of us, not much will change, not immediately anyway. We’ll still be inhabitants of Britain, we’ll still be “British” just like Swedes will always be “Scandinavian”.

We’ll both be in the EU until we decide otherwise or terms are simply renegotiated.

We’ll all still be EU citizens.

Freedom of goods and movement are unlikely to change.

For Scots, not too much changes at all, except that we remove an entire layer of government, we stop paying for Westminster and its imperial ambitions.

For Scots we’ll then decide if, how and when we wish to continue our subsidy’s of the other UK constituents.

Ironically it’s the referendum in Scotland that’s allegedly catalyzed the Catalans and Quebecois. The situation in Catalonia is much more immediate and dire, they argue they’re being bankrupted by Spain and are close to a demand for a resolution NOW.

The feedback loop might prove interesting indeed, for a success in Catalonia will breed increased desire elsewhere.

The big question after Scotland votes “YES” is what will the other parts of the UK do, and nobody, but nobody is addressing that where it counts, because Wales and Northern Ireland, like England’s Westminster will have more, much more, to think on than Holyrood ever will.

And that is only a good thing.


  1. There are some big errors concerning Catalonia in this article. There was no unified Spain beginning from 1469, but rather a personal union that lasted until the XVIII century. Spain was a monarchy and an Empire, not a nation-state, much similar to XVII century Anglo-Scottish Union: same monarch, different laws. Also, Castile was an absolutist state, while Catalonia had a constitutionalist tradition in which King and parliament shared power. Castile was the bigger country, and as it was absolutist it was quite more useful to the king. So, after some struggles Castilian (absolutist) laws were finally imposed upon Catalonia. And this was justified on grounds of an (absolutist, Hobbesian) "right of conquest". Because Catalonia was on the losing side of a war of Succession which enthronized a new dynasty in the Spanish monarchy, French Bourbons. So, in the end, from a Catalan perspective unified (Castilian based) Spain is altogether unconstitutional and unjust, while Scotland agreed to the formation of the UK.

    1. Miquel
      Thank you for this clarification - vital. Could you advise me re your blog title, please? Thanks and congratulations on Catalunyan election results, today!!!!