When Territorial Integrity Meets Self Determination

On September 29, 1977, a decree was issued establishing a provisional Catalan autonomous government through an adaptation of the 1932 Statute. On October 23, 1977, the seventy-seven-year-old Josep Tarradellas returned to Barcelona after an absence of thirty-eight years; and on the following day, Suarez presided over an event in which Taradellas was installed as president of the Generalitat. Tarradellas was certainly not trusted by everyone, but nevertheless he was overwhelmingly perceived as the legitimate Catalan leader. Tarradellas was the son-in-law of the legendary Colonel Macia, the first president of the Catalan government, and he had proudly borne the standard of the Generalitat during a lonely and austere exile. Taradellas did not participate in the anti-Francoist opposition; he considered himself to be above parties, and to be the “spiritual leader” of Catalonia. In return for the re-establishment of the Generalitat, Tarradellas pledged Catalan loyalty to the monarchy, acceptance of the unity of Spain, and respect for the armed forces.
– Laura Desfor Edles, Symbol and Ritual in the New Spain: The Transition to Democracy After Franco

The past few days have been quite an eye-opener for me. For one, it’s a bit shocking to put a name to the people who would follow the Milgram Experiment. I absolutely understand the need for the Rule of Law, and conceptually, I can understand folk who might sympathise for the rights of democracy who nonetheless feel that this wasn’t the right way to go about it. But I feel that once violence enters the equation, all the authority of legality and law are forfeited. All of it. As I’m firmly of the belief that it is the duty of all independence supporters to support the right of self-determination of all peoples who seek it, I was already deeply sympathetic to the people of Catalonia long before we saw those horrible pictures and videos: this only seals the deal for me.

But just like in Scotland, there’s a lot more going on than meets the eye, and a little corner of Iberia could shape the course of a continent – even the world.

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Making a Mockery of Tragedy

I wasn’t going to comment on a recent piece in an anti-independence newspaper which once again chooses to inflate a stushie into a stramash, ably deconstructed here. But I do have to comment on this:

“That march showed that elements of the Yes movement are no better than the White Supremacists who ascended upon Charlottesville or the yobs within the Scottish Defence League.”

At the same time as this, we had the former chief of Project Fear and the billionaire author & professional litigator both promoting an identical “Brexiters are copying the Yes Campaign” agenda to newspapers you normally wouldn’t associate with left-wing, socialist sympathies. This would be tasteless any time, let alone the anniversary of the 2014 independence referendum which still hurts every independence supporter to the bone. But to do it when the Spanish Government – the same Spanish Government who they so eagerly acclaimed as another reasonable voice against “separation,” & who then-UK Prime Minister David Cameron actively collaborated with to thwart Scottish Independence – is actively suppressing the Catalonian’s right of self-determination in a manner more reminiscent of mid-20th Century Spain?

Aye, it’s terrible when friends fall out.

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The Tao of Independence

The leader who was elected 3rd in a 3-member ward, leading a council that lost the popular vote, who runs a minority council as if it was a majority.

Those 6 election results:
1992 (Clune Brae): 855 (47.4%). Elected (pre-STV system).
1999 (Inverclyde Six): 885 (56.3%). Elected (pre-STV system).
2003 (Inverclyde Six): 661 (51.3%). Elected (pre-STV system).
2007 (Inverclyde East): 2,122 (30.1%). Elected 1st round. 1st seat.
2012 (Inverclyde East): 1,607 (28.7%). Elected 1st round. 1st seat.
2017 (Inverclyde East): 953 (21.56%). Elected 2nd round. 3rd seat.

I try to be magnanimous. Really, I do. But there are times I wonder: do the people who campaigned for Scotland to stay in the UK truly have any conception of what we independence campaigners felt this time three years ago?

I’m sure some simply view it as another electoral victory, just like an election. Others may have an understanding, but don’t care: as long as they won, it’s ok. There are probably others who know all too well, and actually enjoy the fact 1.7 million Scots were utterly, completely heartbroken on the 19th of September 2017. Thus, even when they went from 53 pro-UK MPs to 3 less than a year later, the SNP have resoundingly & convincingly won the largest percentage of the vote in every election since 2014, they insist on reminding us: don’t forget, you’re still British.

Yet what of the people who truly made that possible – those ordinary Scots who voted against independence?

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Whenever We Dream

I, like other independence supporters, am of the opinion that a referendum on Scottish Independence needs to be held before the UK leaves the European Union. Others don’t necessarily agree – as is their right – such as Tommy Sheppard MP, who advised waiting until after the next Scottish Parliament elections to secure an “unconditional” mandate in his widely acclaimed Thomas Muir lecture. Two things should be noted: firstly, that he was giving his personal opinion; secondly, and most importantly, that he acknowledged that “This is what it looks like now – it might be different next week” from his perspective. Given what’s happened in the past year, his stance could change significantly, as Robin McAlpine’s did post-EU Referendum.

Here’s why I don’t favour post-2021.

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Lost Histories

I sometimes fear that
people think that fascism arrives in fancy dress
worn by grotesques and monsters
as played out in endless re-runs of the Nazis.

Fascism arrives as your friend.
It will restore your honour,
make you feel proud,
protect your house,
give you a job,
clean up the neighbourhood,
remind you of how great you once were,
clear out the venal and the corrupt,
remove anything you feel is unlike you…

It doesn’t walk in saying,
“Our programme means militias, mass imprisonments, transportations, war and persecution.”
– Michael Rosen, “I Sometimes Fear…

I volunteer with a local heritage & arts group in Gourock: a wee forum where people who are interested in our Burgh of Barony’s past can discuss our history, culture, and future. This can range from the not-too-distant past of the 20th Century, all the way back to prehistoric times, and even the geological composition of the very rocks. Little stories abound, from the innovation of the original Red Herring, to the diabolical warlock Auld Dunrod, and the thing buried under St. Ninian’s football pitch featured on an episode of Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious World.

There are stories that aren’t quite so delightful: the death of Mary Lamont and others in the “witch-mania of Scotland”; the sectarian violence which cropped up again and again; the expulsion of Rev. Macrae by the Synod. One of the many hazards historians must navigate in the sea of history is that dark side of humanity: no town is without its sorrows, its hatreds, its evils. It can be very easy to repurpose shame or horror from your past into denial and outrage towards others.

I was struck by this facet of the events in Charlottesville: it’s illustrative in showing how easy it is for things to go wrong.

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Roman in the Gloamin: The Tautology of A Diverse Empire

Nature has willed that every man’s children and kindred should be his dearest objects. Yet these are torn from us by conscriptions to be slaves elsewhere. Our wives and our sisters, even though they may escape violation from the enemy, are dishonoured under the names of friendship and hospitality. Our goods and fortunes they collect for their tribute, our harvests for their granaries. Our very hands and bodies, under the lash and in the midst of insult, are worn down by the toil of clearing forests and morasses. Creatures born to slavery are sold once for all, and are, moreover, fed by their masters; but Britain is daily purchasing, is daily feeding, her own enslaved people.
Tacitus (attributed to Calgacus), Agricola

There was quite the rammy in social media a couple of days ago. No, not that one: I’ve said all I want to say on that subject. The rammy I’m talking about regards this recent (well, over half a year old) BBC video for 7-to-11-year-olds:

As far as I can tell, the argument seems to be between one group of people who think that the Roman family in the video are not representative of the Ancient Romans as a whole, and another group of people who think that the family represent the diversity of the Ancient Romans.

Now, you know me and the BBC. I am deeply ambivalent about it as an organisation: I started with great enthusiasm & respect for it, to downright anathema & disappointment, within what seemed like only a few years – coincidentally, as a teen watching the Iraq War unfolding. So I view this with the same sense of weary cynicism I now view shows like Blue Peter: a general sense of unease and distrust on every viewing.

Well, I got that watching this cartoon – but it probably wasn’t for the same reasons as those who criticised historians like Mary Beard. Rather, it’s for the disquieting ease by which folk can normalise conquest & colonisation, if it appeals to the right angle on their sensibilities.

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What Ships Are Built For

A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.
John Augustus Shedd (1859 – 1928)

Picture a boat in a harbour. Let’s call her the Scotia. She can be any kind of boat you like: a proud Birlinn, a swift Sgoth Niseach, a stout Gabbart, a bonny Clyde Puffer, a dainty Fifie. The boat is old and well-travelled, though she has not been on a voyage for a very long time. Yet she still floats; her hull is solid and sturdy; the deck and gunwales clear and well-maintained; cargo manifest up-to-date, even her paint still vibrant. Like the Ship of Theseus, she has been built and rebuilt countless times, yet retains the shape and spirit since she was launched. She boasts a dedicated, enthusiastic crew, of many talents and experiences, ready for any and all challenges. People the world over look to this boat as a truly exemplary craft – one that passenger, crewman, and officer alike would be honoured to board & serve.

Now imagine that boat never leaves its harbour.

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