What’s fir ye’ll no go by ye – Scots proverb
The referendum in Catalonia today brings up a few memories. I remember the promise that we might manage to break away from the UK and do something different, we could be something else. I remember how right it felt casting my ballot, and the anticipation. Could it happen? We now know that it didn’t quite happen that time, but it was a lot closer than it had been forecast a few months before. Catalonian today is a very different situation. We don’t know if there will be any international respect for the result, but I think it may be yes. The Spanish government seems so much worse at keeping an unnatural construction together than the British government is.
The Scottish brain is deterministic. We take it for granted that things just are, like they’re set in stone and don’t change. They never change. They can’t change. It’s not fate, or even some sort of divine will, necessarily, it’s just the nature of how we are. We like dark humour. Pretty sure it comes, in part, from the philosopher, John Calvin, who was so influential in the Scottish Kirk (‘kirk’ means church in Scots, for my international audience). Part of it may also be the Catholics with their guilt. We got all the most miserable religious traditions in Scotland, nothing too life-affirming.
When presented with an opportunity for change we are shy to take it unless it seems totally natural and necessary. It would alter natural laws if necessary change didn’t happen. Gravity prevails. Momentum grows until some force shrinks it. That’s probably why the independence referendum failed back in ’14, the change didn’t feel necessary enough for half the people.
Now Catalonia is having a referendum too, and I wonder how it’ll go. So far, it’s going badly. There’s violence reported on the streets, as the Spanish government has properly cocked it up. While the UK decreed a referendum could be legally run, the Spanish have decided to send in armed police. It’s neither a good look nor a good tactic.
It seems like the Spanish government have underestimated the appetite for a referendum. Referendums can be useful for putting matters to bed for a few years, or going disastrously wrong, so it’s diappointing that they’ve decided to go for the route which reeks of the Spanish dictator Franco. Catalans and the world will make these parallels quite easily.
What’s more, police violence – and I reckon it’s the police doing most of the hitting, the Catalonian independence movement is famed for its non-violent nature – suggests that there is no good reason to be part of Spain other than not being hit. That’s not a brilliant argument. The police violence makes Independence seem like the more natural choice. People are not normally for those who hit them with sticks.
Against a backdrop of police violence on the streets, I could even see how a deeply pessimistic people like the Scots could be brought to support independence. As for the Catalan mentality, I cannot comment. I have not met any Catalans. I am saying on this based on a fundamental understanding of people: You catch more flies with honey than with seizing their budget and hitting them.