By Jason Michael

Freedom and democracy are by far more important than “the law,” for without freedom and democracy there can be no justice. When Police Scotland arrests a democratically elected politician for the crime of democracy it becomes a criminal.

“We can confirm,” tweeted Police Scotland yesterday afternoon, “that we are in possession of a European arrest warrant for Clara Ponsati.” The rest of this announcement went on to outline how our police force will bend over for Spain – a state that is pursuing Ms. Ponsati and Carles Puigdemont across Europe for the crime of committing an act of democracy – and will execute this warrant. This decision will forever be a dark and shameful blot on Police Scotland’s record.

The First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has stated that “Scottish Ministers have no power to intervene in the process and our police and courts are legally obliged to follow due process,” but that this does not change the Scottish government’s support for Catalan self-determination. Here I feel it is my duty to remind readers, the Scottish government, and indeed the officers of Police Scotland that while it is true the police and the courts do have a legal obligation in this regard, they are at this moment morally obliged to disobey their orders.

Befehl ist befehl – German: “an order is an order;” that it is somehow always correct and just to obey superior orders, is a legal fiction rendered both criminal and potentially dangerous at Nuremberg (20 Nov. 1945 – 1 Oct. 1946). Some orders are so repugnant to justice and natural law that to obey them makes one complicit in the crimes of those who have issued them. Justice, natural law, and human reason – together with the well-informed conscience – always trump mere orders. A quote widely attributed to Thomas Jefferson puts it thus:

If a law is unjust, a man is not only right to disobey it; he is obligated to do so.

In no way, as was suggested yesterday, is this an argument defending the absurd notion that police officers should simply pick and choose what laws they uphold and what orders they obey. So long as a law is just, so long as it is aligned with the interests of peace, the demands of justice, the triumph of reason, and the good health of a free and democratic society it is valid. But every law is invalid that undermines peace, is unjust, unreasonable, or is detrimental to human freedom and the right of all people to express their democratic will. Clara Ponsati’s “crime” was to be a member of a democratically elected government that held a democratic referendum.

Spain’s violent repression of this referendum on 1 October last year was a violation of the civil and political rights of the Catalan people. It was a flagrant violation of the Catalans’ human rights. As the police force of a supposedly free and democratic nation, Police Scotland’s duty is to put the demands of freedom and democracy – pillars of civilisation which far outweigh the petty concerns of any fascistic state – above all other things. By bending to the will of Spain and executing such a warrant makes Police Scotland and any of its officers who make or facilitate this arrest guilty of Spain’s crime against democracy and accessories to a serious human rights violation.

Where does this mindless obedience lead us? We know fine well where this behaviour leads; history teaches us all we need to know, and this is precisely why we refer to the defence of “only following orders” as the Nuremberg defence. This leads to the deprivation of civil and political rights, the creation of categories of political crimes, and to the exact same thinking that brought us the re-education camps and concentration camps of the totalitarian and authoritarian régimes of the not so distant past – and this is no facile comparison.

Yesterday on social media some people were doing their dingers that this comparison was being made. Their claim was that to compare Police Scotland’s intention to acquiesce to the demands of Spain and this ludicrous European Arrest Warrant was offensive; presumably to the memory of those who suffered and died in camps like Dachau, Bergen-Belsen, and Ravensbrück.

Perhaps we should remember the original purpose of these camps; the wholesale and brutal repression of political dissent, freedom, and democracy. Stefan Starzyński, the Mayor of Warsaw, was murdered in Dachau in 1943 for the “crimes” of Polishness and democracy. Austrian Interior Minister, Franz Olah, a Social Democrat politician, again for the crime of democracy, found himself in the same hell-hole in 1938 after the Anschluss. The Czech political activist and medic, Jan Buzek, for the same “crimes,” was sent to Dachau in April 1940 weighing 18 stone. When he was murdered seven months later he weighed only 7 stone.

How different are these people’s stories from that we are now watching unfold; a Catalan politician and academic being faced with imprisonment by the Spanish state for the crime of democracy? If you are reading this and really think this is not a fair comparison, then – really – it’s time to do some serious thinking. Democracy and freedom are fragile. They are only ever as strong as the will of states to protect them. Spain has made it crystal clear it will not protect them, and now Police Scotland is prepared to assist in this naked assault on freedom.

Due process? The Soviet Union had “due process.” The Nazis had “due process.” The Third Reich was infamous for its strict adherence to the law. We call Nazism “authoritarian” for a reason. Not one of Hitler’s victims died in contravention of the law. Open your eyes!

Will we stand back and watch our police officers obey orders and arrest a democratically elected member of the Catalan parliament – a nation that has already declared its independence from Madrid? Damn right we will. We have already allowed it. Will we stand back and watch our courts go through the legal motions of “due process?” Damn right we will. And if the verdict is to send Clara Ponsati to Madrid to pay the penalty for freedom and democracy, will we stand back and let that happen? I am fairy certain we will, and when that happens we can pat ourselves on the back – because that is the moment we will have given up our right to our freedom and democracy. That is the moment we will have joined the ranks of the oppressors. We have a chance here. Don’t let them do it. Resist.


Catalan independence – Professor Clara Ponsati

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7 thoughts on “Police Scotland Just Following Orders

  1. Well said, Jason. I was in Girona with a few friends for their referendum. We didn’t see any violence but we did see the evidence of it. Although I’m disabled I’ll stand in a human barricade to keep Clara in Scotland and she is welcome to hide in our spare room for as long as it takes.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. This really is the most dreadful, ill-thought, emotive, reactionary nonsense. Concepts of freedom and democracy are utterly meaningless unless there is a society within which these ideals can be realised and maintained. And without the law there is no society. The law is what makes human society possible. It is the glue which holds society together. Without the law, there can be no freedom. Without the law, there can be no justice. Without the law, freedom and justice are mere words in a dictionary.

    But the most foolish thing about this whole rant is that, while insisting on the supremacy of freedom and justice, it demands that we should discard the means by which we prove that maintain the supremacy of freedom and justice. The law is, to put it very simply, the codification of society’s mores and principles. An imperfect and incomplete codification, to be sure. But always a work in progress. Jason is simultaneously claiming that Spain’s law is inferior to Scotland’s in terms of the extent to which it represents the principles of freedom and justice, and that our law is inadequate in terms of being able to correct this deficiency.

    It is for our courts to prove the superiority of our law. It is for our courts to demonstrate that our law better codifies the principles of freedom and justice. It is for our courts to uphold those principles on behalf of our society. But Jason appears so convinced of the inadequacy of our law that he would have the police intervene to prevent the matter reaching our courts.

    He would make Police Scotland the servants of politics rather than the servants of the law. And not even the servants of democratic politics. He wants Police Scotland to serve the politics of the mob. He wants them to by be the agents, not of the codification of society’s mores and principles, but ofits basest urges.

    When the police come to be guided in their action, not by the dictates of the law, but by the fickle whims of public opinion as defined by whoever has the biggest megaphone, justice and freedom cannot long survive. Society itself cannot long survive.


    1. Ooft! Say what you really think, would you?! On this, I am afraid, we clearly couldn’t disagree more. I do not accept that the law is “the codification of society’s mores and principles.” Perhaps this is what it should be, but this is not what the law is. This is never what the law has been. The law is the narrative of power. The law – in a perfect world – presupposes justice. Never the other way about as you seem to suggest. We cannot forget that the law – “the codification of society’s mores and principles” – was put to the service of Nazism and many other brutal and murderous regimes. So, no, I do not accept the superiority of law.

      “He wants Police Scotland to serve the politics of the mob?” Not at all. This is a rather unfair representation of what I have written. I have said that I want Police Scotland to be at the service of “justice, natural law, and human reason, together with the well-informed conscience” of each of its members. I believe that the police can be and has been used as a political weapon, and that this has led to great evil. This is why I will always put obedience to conscience before orders, and I make no apology for this.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. A few thoughts on the Cara Ponsati ‘case.

    It is certain that millions of people across the EU are deeply concerned about the plight of those who are the subjects of the European Arrest Warrants re-issued by Spain just a few days ago, one of whom is Cara Ponsati, currently in Scotland .

    That Cara is here through her position at St Andrews

    As the First Minister has said, Cara Ponsati has rights. These rights will be upheld and defended to the max here in Scotland. Cara has an excellent lawyer, perhaps the best in Scotland in this field. There is a long road between now and a possible return to Spain. During this time, it is more than likely that Cara will be free to go about her business.
    She is not a threat to anyone. Her case will be heard under Scottish Law in Scotland. There is no need to jump to false conclusions, fuelled perhaps by too much pessimistic emotion , nor to think that the worst will automatically befall Cara. And the idea that already it is time to take the law into our own hands and steal Cara away to a secret hiding place is perhaps more than a touch fanciful and melodramatic , and surely premature .
    Let us here in Scotland take care of Cara according to her expressed needs. By all
    means let us be sure to help her appropriately and generously, for we are a generous nation accustomed to showing hospitality are we not.
    Let the politicians at Holyrood do what they can. Let the lawyers do what they can.
    Let the Law of Scotland do what it can. And then, when we have done all that can rightfully be done, we may rightfully trust that that will be enough for justice to be done.

    Liked by 1 person

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