Scotland and Catalonia examined at Cambridge University
DIPLOCAT – The Public Diplomacy Council of Catalonia organised a debate on the opportunities and challenges of the self-determination processes
DIPLOCAT organised yesterday an academic debate on Scotland and Catalonia in the UK, in cooperation with the Forum on Geopolitics POLIS. The conference “Nationhood for Scotland and Catalonia: A threat or an opportunity for the EU?” took place at the prestigious University of Cambridge. Among the audience were Josep Suàrez Iborra, Head of the Delegation of the Government of Catalonia to the United Kingdom and Ireland, and the former British Consul in Barcelona, Geoff Cowling.
After words of welcome by Professor Brendan Simms from the Forum on Geopolitics, Executive Director of DIPLOCAT Laura Foraster compared the cases of Scotland and Catalonia, ending on the main current difference: while Scotland was able to hold a referendum, Catalonia has not been able to do so due to resistance from the Spanish Government.
Professor Jeff Miley from the University of Cambridge was very critical with view to any kind of initiative by Catalonia which was not being agreed with the Spanish state, such as a unilateral declaration of independence, as according to him the EU would never accept it. He also talked about the general disenchantment of the Spanish with politics, caused by the crisis and corruption, which gave rise to Podemos, and cast doubt on the capacity of the Catalan sovereign movement to offer solutions related to this disenchantment.
Catalonia ignored in Madrid
Professor Montserrat Guibernau from the Queen Mary University of London lamented specifically the lack of democratic dialogue from the side of the Spanish state and reminded that Catalonia can have a voice, but will always be in a minority situation within the state and will never be able to start a constitutional reform. According to Guibernau, the voice of Catalonia is furthermore being ignored in Madrid.
Afterwards, Professor David McCrone from the University of Edinburgh focused on the consequences of the results of the Scottish National Party (SNP) in the 2014 referendum and their impact upon UK politics. While the Scottish referendum did not lead to independence, it resulted in a majority of more than 50% in favour of a policy of maximum devolution of competences (devo-max) and better results of the independentist SNP party in the last British elections.
Professor Malcolm Chalmers from RUSI – Royal United Services Institute explained the defence implications of Scottish and Catalan self-determination. He started by saying that the EU and NATO give security to small states, which implies that the costs for independence in this domain are lower. The interest of NATO is to avoid gaps in collective defense, meaning that it is important for new states to show themselves as good allies, to be able to manage a proportionate military force and comply with the established status quo. This being assured, it would be relatively simple for an independent Catalonia to access NATO, according to Chalmers.
The conference ended with the words of journalist Antoni Bassas, former Washington correspondent (2009-2013) for TV3 and currently Audiovisual Chief of ARA newspaper, who gave a historic account of the political events and tensions between Catalonia and Spain, using newspaper coverage and video clippings of TV news programmes as illustration.