More news from Catalunya

Catalan news from my Twitter feed

  • Albano Dante Fachin is Secretary General of Podem – the Catalan branch of Podemos. I liked his speech very much in the pre-independence debate and he is proving to be an interesting person to watch. He thinks for himself. He is Argentinian (a plus for me) and speaks great Catalan.  In a newspaper interview he said today, The Spanish and the Catalan Left need to make their minds up what side they are on – democracy or not. Today is is Junqueres and the others in prison – tomorrow it could be Ada Colau (Barcelona mayor) or Iglesias (leader of Podemos)

See what I mean – he’s not scared to speak out!

  • Barcelona football club has hung a massive Catalan flag on one side of the Nou Camp ground in preparation for the match with Seville.  That is a match I would love to attend. I wonder if Pep’s brother-in-law will be there with the family Barça ticket?
  • Today in the Usher Hall in Edinburgh there was a show of support for Catalunya with people holding up flags
  • Over 40,000 people marched today in Bilbao in support of Catalunya and against the anti-democratic actions of the Spanish government
  • 8 Catalan teachers have been charged by the Spanish courts with hate crimes. What did they do? They were leading discussions about the police violence on 1st October.
  • Remember the Galician teacher who encouraged his class to discuss Catalunya?  He is now in prison.
  • Meanwhile as I am sure you now know, the members of the Catalan government who returned to Barcelona from Brussels were sent straight to jail by a Spanish judge. They have not had a trial or been sentenced but are being held with no trial date yet decided. On the way to prison they were mocked, handcuffed, not allowed to eat and generally treated badly. Two were strip searched. All part of the Spanish government policy of humiliation and bullying. Lawyers have started putting in official complaints.

Someone asked me this evening what exactly Carles Puigdemont is doing in Brussels.  Obviously I don’t know the answer but I am confident that he is working hard for the Catalan people, speaking to other European leaders, and the press, and his lawyers and others who are taking a close interest in this matter. Even though EU leaders are quietly turning their heads away, there are many people who are outraged by what Spain is doing. Every day there are more and more statements from all over the world expressing dismay at the lack of democracy in Spain.

I see Puigdemont as a very rational and intelligent person – with integrity and a deep sense of responsibility.

He is not hiding.

He is not running away.

He is not pulling the duvet over his head and hoping it was all a bad dream

Catalans have long known the hidden side of the Spanish state and so all that now shocks us so deeply is not a surprise to them. It is a painful and sad time but it is a necessary process to take off the masks and see a new truth.

Now that Belgium has decided they will not extradite Puigdemont without a proper legal case being heard, there is the opportunity for the Spanish Constitution to be discussed, in public, in full view of the whole world. So long as the President is there, he is the best chance Catalalunya has of getting a fair hearing.

So, that’s my summary of some news that I read today. I also found a youtube video of a message written by a Spanish woman to her child – it was interesting and was a positive response to all that is going on. She denied the importance of the Spanish flag or the anthem, and gave a long list of what she feels it means to be Spanish – tortilla and tapas, friends teaching you the Sardana in Barcelona, drinking Orujo in Galicia, learning how to count in Euskadi, loving the Mediterrean, etc etc….a full description of all the cultures and the food of the peninsula.   I watched it then lost the link…..

If only there was a Spanish government that could embrace all of the land that is Spain and Catalunya and Galicia and Pais Basc. If only they would encourage people to love the diversity rather than fear it. If only Rajoy and his team would stop their mission of terror and decide to turn around and talk and make peace. Apologise perhaps for the mistakes they have made. Soften and open up their hearts rather than fuel the anger.



David can win against Goliath – and often does!

Tonight President Puigdemont of Catalunya said  “Behind bars, the legitimate government of Catalonia is more respectable than those who have imprisoned it.”

Today eight members of the Catalan government were sent to prison after a short hearing in Madrid. They were given 24 hours warning of the hearing and their lawyer afterwards told the press that he was not allowed time to offer the defence.

Here are the names of those who are in prison tonight.  Of course there are two others – the leaders of the civic organisations Omnium and ANC who were refused bail and imprisoned over a week ago.


  • Vice President Oriol Junqueras
  • Interior Minister Joaquim Forn
  • Foreign Affairs Minister Raül Romeva
  • Justice Minister Carles Mundó
  • Labour Minister Dolors Bassa
  • Government Presidency Councillor Jordi Turull
  • Sustainable Development Minister Josep Rull
  • Culture Minister Meritxell Borras

All over Catalunya tonight there are huge protests in town centres.  We watched people speaking on the Catalan news station TV3 – all united in their anger and sadness – supporting the government,  its ministers and the President who is still in Belgium trying to waken the EU to start caring about these attacks on democracy.

Sadness and Anger

I want to talk about a book I have been reading over the last week.  It helps me feel optimistic about the situation in Catalunya and I do need that help as on so many days I have been feeling  both angry and sad.  Watching people fighting for their rights against a powerful and repressive state affects me emotionally and I think it affects us all even if we try to numb ourselves to it. Obviously being intimately connected with this struggle, it is hard to be numb but I believe that all humans feel connected to what is happening to others in the world. We are connected in ways we don’t understand fully. There are some who rally around the bully but the majority feel unsettled when they know about unjust or cruel behaviour towards others.

The book is called David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell

I wish all Catalans could read it. The basic theory and the stories he tells are extremely uplifting for anyone engaged in a David and Goliath battle.

We all know the story.

Goliath the giant has armour and weapons and is strong and confident that he can beat any opponents who stand up to him

Shepherd David is small and unprotected and has only stones and a sling and an ability to attack from a distance.

And he wins.

He has the advantages of agility, speed and surprise, and he is determined.

Goliath is heavy and his armour is cumbersome. He is arrogant and slow.

In the real world Davids often win against Goliaths because in spite of how it appears, Davids have strengths and advantages that many people underestimate.

So Catalunya can win against Spain. Not with weapons or brute strength but with other huge advantages that they have.

  • Huge numbers of people who can be depended on to organise fast and effectively all over the country.
  • Courageous people of all ages and from all backgrounds
  • People who care deeply about their struggle for civil rights and democracy
  • A committment to peaceful protest – this is very powerful as the world watches
  • The sheer numbers of Catalans who are united and determined to stand together
  • The people watching from outside – there is a lot of support for this democractic movement even if the EU leaders remain silent. Many voices.

Spain has  strengths too but they all come with attached problems

  • Brute strength – not popular in the rest of Europe. Have to hold back
  • Power imposed in Catalunya. They are having to control a people who do not want them there. The PP now ruling have no democratic validity.
  • Rule of law – this is what they are trying to use to repress the Catalan independence movement. But it is slow and time-consuming even though the rulings today were fast tracked but this looks dodgy and the SPanish can’t afford to look bad to the outside world.  Another weakness is that the Spanish government has its own problems with being unlawful with many corruption cases being processed.
  • Support from EU leaders. This is a definite advantage but it comes with strings as the Spanish have to avoid brutality and they know that the EU has some private doubts about their behaviour so far.

Malcolm Gladwell says:

Suppose you were to total up all the wars over the past two hundred years that occurred between very large and very small countries. Let’s say that one side had to be at least ten times larger in population and armed might than the other. How often do you think the bigger side wins? Most of us would put that number at close to 100 per cent. A tenfold difference is a lot!  But the actual answer may surprise you. When the political scientist Ivan Arreguin-Toft did the calculation a few years ago what he came up with was 71.5 percent. Just under a third of the time, the weaker country wins.

And what happens when the smaller country does as David did and refuses to fight the way the bigger side wants to fight? The answer : in those cases the weaker party’s winning percentage climbs from 28.5 percent to 63.6 percent.”

If you are a David and want to win against Goliath

  • Follow your instincts, don’t keep strictly to the rules
  • Giants are not what we think they are – the same qualities that appear to give them strength are often their greatest weaknesses
  • Being an underdog can give you special abilities and strengths which make the impossible possible.

Ease of movement, endurance, individual intelligence, knowledge of the country and  personal courage allows people to do the impossible. Weapons size and resources do give an advantage but it also makes you immobile and put you on the defensive.

It can also be exhausting to be on the side of the underdog in a battle – you have to be canny and quick to respond. You have to be ahead of the game.

But if you care enough about the outcome – and you have an awareness of your opponent’s weaknesses and an ability to use your own strengths it is very likely you will win.

President Puigdemont  impresses me with his planning, his calmness in stressful moments, his courage and his intelligence. The organisation of the 1 October referendum was an inspiration.

The people of Catalunya are honorable, well organised, committed to working together, creative, loyal to their communites and their government, dedicated to peaceful and democratic change, and determined to do what is right.

I would place my bets on this Catalan David overcoming the Spanish Goliath.




Dialogue – it is never too late to turn to dialogue

It may seem that I am unquestioningly supportive of the Catalan Government’s recent actions – the referendum and the announcement of Independence after a long period of frustrated attempts to engage Madrid in talks.

But behind the scenes I am always reading and talking and listening and doing my best to understand what is happening now and why it has come to this.

You can’t really begin to understand the politics unless you start digging into some pretty unpleasant places where there are buried and half buried stories and emotions and histories.  Just go to Twitter and read comments about  Catalunya and Catalans and soon you are in vast chambers of grief and hurt and rage and sadness and fear.

(Can we start talking about Franco yet?)

A friend put a post on Facebook asking why Spain won’t talk to Catalunya and why do many Spanish dislike Catalans so much. Some of the answers made me have to switch off the computer and go outside for some fresh air. Just reading the answers made my heart start pounding and my brain go into electric overdrive.

People from Spain are often the ones to start calling names and swearing and making wild accusations. From my detached point of view I wonder why they want Catalunya to stay when so many appear to have no care or respect for Catalans or their culture. But history is more than facts in a text book – there are real stories and everyone needs to be heard – even though it is difficult to listen to those who can’t speak kindly or with empathy. It is clear there is a huge amount of buried feelings that when we begin to uncover them, burst forth in smelly gaseous putrid form.

But there is truth even in those places that we don’t want to look. And I think it is vital to seek out those who have a differing opinion on this issue. There are people who want Catalunya to remain part of Spain and there are Catalans who feel Catalan and Spanish – it is a fact that many families have parents or grandparents from outside Catalunya and so of course they have mixed and complicated loyalties.  Many people have found a leader in the person of Ada Colau who is the present mayor of Barcelona. She is a voice of reason and promotes a different view of how dialogue should lead the way, even if it takes a lot longer than the path we are now on. I don’t know a lot about her party or about her but here is a recent message she put out on Facebook which while it is not my view, is a fair and reasonable opinion expressed in a decent and honorable way.

Ada Colau  Mayor of Barcelona 27.10.17

“After talking about a train crash in the conditional or future tense for so long, it’s difficult to take on the fact that today it has happened.
A decade of PP carelessness with Catalonia has culminated with the adoption of article 155 by the Senate today.
Rajoy presented the motion to the applause of his party and to the shame of all of us who respect dignity and democracy.
Were they applauding his failure?
Those who have been incapable of proposing a single solution, incapable of listening or of governing for all, have enacted a coup against democracy today with the annihilation of Catalan self-government.
On the same track, in the other direction, the pro-independence parties are in their, smaller train with no breaks, advancing at a kamikazi pace (“now is the moment”, we’re in a hurry”), after their mistaken reading of the results of the Catalan elections. Their speed has been the result of partisan interests, a headlong dash which has been consumated today with a Declaration of Independence in the name of Catalonia that doesn’t have the support of a majority of Catalans.
We won’t tire of repeating it: it’s a mistake to renounce the 80% in favour of a negotiated referendum for the 48% in favour of independence.
Many of us have been warning of this danger for years and, over recent weeks, working in public and in private to avoid this collision. We’re a majority, in Catalonia and in Spain, who want a halt to the trains and for dialogue, common sense and an agreed solution to take hold.
There’s always time to turn to dialogue. Whatever happens, we won’t cease to demand it. But now our task is to defend Catalan institutions and to fight to maintain the social cohesion and prosperity of Barcelona and Catalonia. We’ll be with the people, struggling to make sure that their rights are not violated. Healing the wounds that all of this has caused and calling on people in the rest of the country to fight with us, because the democracy that is at risk today is theirs too. We will also continue to call on the Socialist Party to stop supporting those who have applauded Rajoy today, otherwise it will be impossible for them to be part of any credible or inspiring alternative.
I know where I’ll be: involved in the construction of new forms of self-government that give us more democracy, not less. That includes working to kick out the PP which, with its cruel applause today, has celebrated the pain of a people. But also, above all, I’ll be working to feminize politics so that empathy becomes an everyday practice that allows us to build broad consensuses through which diversity can become our greatest treasure.
Nor Article 155 nor Unilateral Declaration of Independence: not in my name.”

Catalunya is an Independent Republic

The Parliament in Barcelona today declared the independence of Catalunya!

What happens now?

First, there is a lot of celebration all over Catalunya. People gathering in the streets in Barcelona, Lleida, Girona, Granollers!

Lots of talking on the internet, the TV and the Radio.  The mayoress of Barcelona isn’t too happy – she didn’t want Article 155 nor UDI. But she hasn’t really explained how change would happen in her plan.  More talking perhaps? Talking to those who refuse to talk back.

There is a lot of emotion – both from people who are celebrating and from those who are unhappy.

The government in Madrid has also approved the application of Article 155 to take over the government and practically everything else in Catalunya.

Scotland ‘respects the declaration of independence’

‘The UK will not recognise the Catalan parliament’s decision to declare independence from Spain ‘

Wiki has added Catalunya to the list of independent countries. It shows that it has a population of 7.5 million people and that its capital city is Barcelona

I feel proud of Scotland but I would like a full recognition not a politician’s careful response.

Not surprised by the UK government – they are sooking up up Spain of course in the hope of having some friends for Brexit

Yet again I am disappointed in the Labour party who stand back and are silent

I feel a great mixture of excitement and worry.

I really can’t understand why people are so against Catalunya being a free country. Obviously Spain wants their money but apart from that – won’t life in Madrid, Seville, Malaga etc carry on the same?  Won’t the daily life still be as it was yesterday?  For normal Spanish people it isn’t really going to affect their everyday lives. Obviously there are lots of things to sort out but why not try a new way?

If Scotland had voted for independence would my life here in Cornwall be much different?  If in some weird alternative world Cornwall became an independent Republic wouldn’t I still be Scottish? My life would remain fairly similar apart from any changes the new Cornish government might want to make.

I think the negative response is from elites who are horrified by the idea of people actually chosing their own destiny. Money, power, control…..

Anyway, for now, Catalunya is a new country and I welcome it and wish all its people well.

We had a celebration lunch in Mousehole and Zero wore his republican collar – bought especially for this day!


Will he declare Independence or not?

I knew it was a good idea to catch up yesterday.

Today there is a lot going on – it’s hard to keep up with it and harder still to understand. Of course we don’t know the background discussions and promises that are taking place behind closed doors.

Around 12.30 here in the UK we heard that Puigdemont was not going to announce the birth of the Republic but instead was going to dissolve the Catalan Parliament and call elections for early December.

Why?  Backroom deals?  Fear of the immediate difficulties that would arise if UDI was declared? Another attempt to slow things down to give time for negotiations?  The hope that calling elections would stop the proposal to invoke Article 155 and Spain take over Catalunya?

I went to Twitter and saw a lot of anger, feelings of betrayal, disappointment. Many people feeling that independence is the only solution now and that to step back from it now is a betrayal of all the people who have been fighting so long and so bravely.

Then there is the million euro question – would calling elections stop Rajoy and his government from invoking Article 155?

Another question came to mind – what if the Spanish government banned all the pro-independence parties from standing in a new election?  That could be fun – leaving only the choice between three right wing parties – PP, Ciutadans and the Socialists. (Are the Socialists right wing?  Think Tony Blair and quadruple it)

Now I see that Puigdemont is going to speak later this afternoon. He may not have yet dissolved Parliament and has not yet called for elections. He first needs a guarantee that doing so would put a stop to Article 155.

All this apparently came after talks with the Basque leader Iñigo Urkullu.  I wonder why he would prefer elections rather than immediate declaration of the Republic?  I had heard rumours that Rajoy was planning to take preemptive measures against the Basques as well – was he thinking that he needed to avoid this at all costs?

So many rumours and it’s important to get information from several places before believing it. Things moving fast and of course we are on the outside just trying to peep through a crack in the curtains to get an idea of what the hell is going on!

But the people still feel strong. They are prepared to resist. They are organised and are together. Politicians like to play cat and mouse but the people on the street and in the towns are focussed and strong.

What I like about Puigdemont is that he is a democrat and he is trying to do the best thing for Catalunya. He is willing to take on the ire of the people if he believes that stepping back is right. In the end he is human and he is taking advice. And I imagine that even now, at the 11th hour, he is focussed on doing his job as well as he can.

Right  now there is a massive demonstration of students and others outside the Generalitat in Plaça de Sant Jaume Barcelona. Anything from 9000 (police) to 50,000 (organisers).

Sitting here in quiet Lamorna with birdsong outside – I so wish I could be there too!