After attending the Radical Independence Conference 2013 (RIC2013) held two weeks ago, one should assert Scots are one step ahead on the process. Let me share these thoughts.
Scotland and Catalonia processes share a lot and differ a lot. What is similar and what is different has been analysed and repeated here and there, and all seems to generate from a very distinct fact. This is, that UK is not Spain (for the minimally informed reader this says nothing and tells a lot) and having an agreement to hold a referendum changes it all.
Well, to be strict, cultural differences and distinct characters (I bet shaped by the weather) also contribute substantially to the way the two processes are seen at the streets. I heard some Scots envying the Catalan energy upon demonstrations, and to me they have reasons for that: Catalans have substituted their national flag (la Senyera) for a fighting (do not misunderstand that, the Catalan movement is thoroughly pacifist) flag (l’Estelada). And it is very difficult to walk across Catalonia’s streets and yet miss Estelada flags waving here and there. Not to mention the 2012 rally at Barcelona, or the 2013 Catalan Way (which had its branch in Edinburgh), both of over two million people participation (over the 7.5 million Catalans in Catalonia). This is enviable, and certainly (some) Scots do. However, what is the main reason for that? Catalans are not actually a brave people, they have a negotiating attitude and easily relinquish as not to take excessive risks. So, if they are currently so united is because they need it, because they know there is no other satisfactory solution to the current impasse. In other words: they need to be that energetic because the referendum is banned. And here comes the point I wanted to make: Catalans (generally!) see independence as a necessity to enable the retained prosperity, to preserve the threatened identity, in the end to be free and all this carries.
But Scots, and that was really appreciated in RIC2013, are much more concerned on what is the model of society they can build for the future. RIC2013 showed an inspiring “another Scotland is possible” subtitle and participants really felt it was the case. I really could appreciate enthusiasm and excitement on the proposals for a better, fairer Scotland, and how can this be actually done. They embrace on the so-called utilitarian nationalism to see independence as an opportunity for that. And this shows a clear step beyond. Independence is not a goal but a tool. RIC2013 speakers emphasised RIC2014 to be more important and to gather “architects of another Scotland”, I found this quite significant. And that is enviable: instead of shouting, they are listening, debating, and deciding. The UK represents a model of society which Scots might not want to buy, yet do not threat Scotland prosperity. The democratic tradition is also enviable (at least it should, for the Spanish counterpart), the electoral manifesto voted by the people is to be respected: and that is why the referendum is taking place. And that is enviable, Catalans cannot see this accomplished because of a Spanish law (embraced in a constitution which succeeded the dictatorship), and certainly envy this.
RIC2013 was a well organised conference. The enthusiasm showed by volunteers, stewards, organisers and participants contributed to the feeling of being constructing something new, something big. Gathering that diverse audience and yet focusing on the “another Scotland is possible” point avoiding differences and enforcing what is common is a great achievement on the RIC2013 organisers.
One of the RIC2013 messages was that a fairer society is not possible under UK administration, hence replication of the UK model at Scotland scale would not be an acceptable option. Meanwhile, Catalans go: we want to vote. Is it not different? Replicating the Spanish administration to the Catalan state will work for Catalans as a first instance (I should say, Catalans do see an opportunity in independence, and definitely will construct a modern, flexible state, nothing to do with any spanish-like model; indeed relevant movements are already working towards it and lots of interesting ideas and fruitful debates are taking place; but I think this holds anyway). Because, as one said once, it is not that Catalans have no state to count on, it is that they have one against (lots of examples demonstrate this hostility). I am convinced Catalans and Scots share a lot in their processes, in the end we are building Europe (whatever this might mean to everyone). It is however clear that Scots are one step ahead, and that there are differences, but the two processes are parallel and are about constructing fairer and more prosperous societies. Catalonia and Scotland are at a different stage and their processes show a very different face, but are not far, and probably should be doing what is always best, collaborating on these common and ambitious tasks.