Part of this impatience, I suspect, is the demand for a UDI – a unilateral declaration of independence. Now, some of my closest friends in the movement are supporters of such a declaration. It forces our elected representatives to pin their colours to the mast and act, at our behest, for Scotland and independence. It sounds good. It’s attractive. It would certainly get us where we want to go. But my thoughts on it might land me in a spot of bother. I am not a fan.
As this not unlikely scenario plays out Scotland will find itself in much the same position that Catalonia now finds itself – having to break British law or hold a referendum without British consent in order to decide on its own future. We may imagine that the deployment of the police against the independence movement is impossible here, but when it comes to state politics and the political and economic necessities of suzerain states anything is possible. Over the past three centuries the British state has consistently used force against its own subjects to keep them in line.
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.
The truth is that Spain has narrowly avoided an armed conflict in Catalunya, and no country has done more to provoke a war in Europe in recent decades than has Spain in Catalunya. Thanks mainly, we can be sure, to the misguided trust of the Catalan leadership in the honest brokerage of the EU and the European states this has not happened. Yet, now having learned this lesson, we cannot be certain that any similar event will end so “peacefully.”
Catalonia will become an independent state. That much is now a historical certainty. Scotland too will break away from the United Kingdom. Forces have been unleashed that have refused to go away, and as the neoliberal project continues to unravel the conditions are being created for greater state instability. Italy, Belgium, France, and to some extent Germany will face the same movements in the next decade.
Mr. Rajoy can be damn sure there was a referendum. Spanish nationalists and Scotland’s British nationalists – eager to keep the independence movement here at heel – have been repeating the chorus, “the vote was illegal – the police were in the right.” The Catalan government was expected to negotiate with the central government in Madrid, but they failed to do this. No talks have happened with Spain because such talks, according to the Spanish Constitution, are themselves illegal. Spain’s Constitution forbids constitutional change and talk of it is seditious.