Catalonia: A friendly Scottish message for Madrid

Dr José Manuel Garcia-Margallo Y Marfil
Foreign Ministry

Dear José Manuel

I was delighted to see your son at Cabinet DN’s Summer Party in Brussels.  He said you were actively engaged in debate with the Catalans immediately before their referendum. Courageous!

O.K. so the independistas have a majority of seats. But even with so much emotion behind them, they did not achieve 50 per cent of the popular vote.  And even their majority in seats depends on a coalition with the far left, which can’t be something most Catalans would want to let loose on their successful economy.

We Nos did even better in Scotland with a 55/45 straight vote against independence. And yet a year later 56  of the 59 “first past the post” Scottish seats in the Westminster Parliament are held by Nationalists. The Conservatives, Liberals and Socialists hold only one seat each.

Many of us expected a Quebec aftermath with the issue going right off the boil. But it hasn’t. There is more talk than ever of independence; the polls are projecting 50/50 or worse (or better if you are an independista!). Next year we have elections to the Scottish Parliament and the Nationalists are forecast by the opinion polls to win again with a sizeable overall majority – even with proportional voting designed to prevent such majorities.

But I’m not so sure it will last.  Scotland might be an independent country in 20 years time – but I think the odds are against it.  Quite probably we are at the high point of independent sentiment just now.

If we play the long game, devolve political and economic rights and responsibilities within the overarching national envelope, if we talk and act in Madrid and London often and positively about Catalonia’s and Scotland’s cultural, economic and iconic features and interests, decentralise broadcasting and funding of the arts, let accidents happen, let popularity pall, play the long game, I expect the steam will gradually go out of the current enthusiasm.

The closer prospects of independence appear to be, the more the man and woman on the Barcelona or Edinburgh tram will have to face up to the economic and other implications for them and their family. Just quietly and calmly allow these prospects to appear, fester and mushroom.

I may be quite wrong, but I think in both the UK and Spain the best way to ensure long term unity is to play it long, avoid hysterics, boost the pride, soothe the sensitivities, stress the vital contribution which Catalans and Scots make to the UK/Spanish whole – and I fully expect they will come to prefer the comfort of the status quo.

Once you and Mr Rajoy have settled the Catalans and Mr Cameron has settled the Scots, perhaps we can all meet and settle the Gibraltarians.

Yours ever
John Purvis

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