Monday, February 15, 2021

Stunning electoral breakthrough for the Catalan independence movement blows a huge hole in the arguments of the SNP's "caution / delay" faction

Here is the result of the popular vote in yesterday's Catalan parliamentary election, which as you can see is rather complex. Parties that support independence are marked with an asterisk. 

Partit dels Socialistes 23.0% (+9.2)
Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya* 21.3% (-0.1)
Junts per Catalunya* 20.0% (-1.7)
Vox 7.7% (n/a)
En Comú Podem 6.9% (-0.6)
Candidatura d'Unitat Popular - Guanyem Catalunya* 6.7% (+2.2)
Ciutadans 5.6% (-19.8)
Partit Popular 3.9% (-0.4)
Partit Demòcrata Europeu Català* 2.7% (n/a)

London media outlets that are clueless about proportional representation are describing this as a "win for the socialists", but of course it's anything but. The pro-independence parties in combination have stormed to an overall majority of the popular vote for the first time, and no government can be formed without the consent of at least one of them. It's particularly gratifying to see the total collapse of the allegedly "liberal" Ciutadans / Ciudadanos party (actually a grotesque right-wing Spanish nationalist outfit) so beloved of Guy Verhofstadt. 

What are the lessons for Scotland? Most obviously, this is a heavy blow for the ultra-cautious worldview espoused by the likes of Pete Wishart, who would have us believe that our hopes for independence are like a fragile piece of precious china, which will smash into a thousand pieces if we're not sufficiently scared of our own shadow, leaving us with nothing but regrets. The two international examples that are always trotted out are Quebec, where holding a second referendum "too soon" after the first one (ie. fifteen years later!) supposedly killed all hopes of independence, and Catalonia, where the unilateral declaration of independence was supposedly a catastrophic strategic error that left the sovereignty movement in tatters. The Quebec example was always bogus, for reasons I've explained many times. The Parti Québécois in fact remained in power for eight full years after the second referendum defeat in 1995, and was re-elected with a thumping overall majority in 1998. The real strategic error in retrospect was not doing anything with that power when they had it. 

And now the Catalan example doesn't work either. Sometimes in politics it takes a while for the fog to clear, but we can now see that the effect of UDI, and the violent, repressive response of the Spanish state, has been to rally support for the independence movement in unprecedentedly high numbers. That shouldn't have happened if you believed the likes of Pete Wishart, but it has. So not such a strategic mistake after all - although admittedly many brave individuals have had to give up their liberty to get to this point. 

Remember also that when we talk about Plan B in Scotland, we're categorically not talking about UDI or anything even vaguely close to the Catalan experience - in fact even the McEleny/MacNeil plan, which is the most radical option, is extraordinarily tame compared to the tactics used in Catalonia. Anything we might do here would be immaculately legal and constitutional, and yet so many senior SNP figures seem absolutely terrified of it. There's no longer any plausible excuse for that. 

The other lesson from the Catalan election is the psychological importance of getting an outright majority of the popular vote - something we actually fell short of on both ballots in 2016. Of course the first priority must be to secure a majority of seats, and if we do that we can certainly say that we've won fair and square under the rules and that our mandate must be respected. But there'll be a propaganda battle about what the mandate means, and the more watertight we can make it, the better off we'll be. 

* * * 

When last week's ComRes poll for the Scotsman purportedly showed support for GRA reform by a margin of 37% to 26%, I was somewhat sceptical, because other polling over the last couple of years has shown the complete opposite - ie. overwhelming opposition. I concluded that this must be one of those issues where the answers that respondents give are very much affected by the way the question is asked. But I don't think I could have anticipated just how slanted the Scotsman's question would turn out to be. I once took Stuart Campbell to task for an astoundingly convoluted, leading poll question that made it very difficult for respondents to do anything but say they were opposed to self-ID - well, the Scotsman's question is practically the reverse mirror image of that... 

"The Scottish Parliament is currently considering changes to gender recognition laws in Scotland. Under the proposed changes, the way trans people apply for a gender recognition certificate, the mechanism by which they can change their legal gender on their birth certificates, would be streamlined to make the process less expensive and bureaucratic, and less intrusive to trans people than the current process. However some opposition to the changes focus largely on the potential impact of allowing people to self-identify their gender in single-sex spaces such as changing rooms, and women-only shortlists. To what extent do you support or oppose changes to the gender recognition laws in Scotland?" 

Frankly, I don't think the results of a question like that can or should be taken particularly seriously. The wording is clearly designed to minimise the significance of the reforms, and to make them sound like a logical tidying up of existing regulations - something that no reasonable person could possibly object to. In fact, with a question like that, it's a miracle that the result was as close as it was.

By the same token, the question that supposedly showed that a plurality of SNP voters support Joanna Cherry's sacking is somewhat tarnished by wording that goes out of its way to speculate that she may have been sacked "because of general disloyalty to the SNP".  If you actively put that idea in SNP voters' heads, how else would you expect them to react?


  1. They've won a majority but have no cards left to play.

    Announcing an unsanctioned vote and declaring udi needed international support. It was the last option they had. They didn't get that support and what do they do now? All Pete is saying is you need international support from what I can gather. If the UK say it's illegal and isn't to be listened to we're in the same boat. Nobodies riding over the hill to help.

    I have personal links to Catalonia and feel heart sorry for the proindy side. They've won last night but they don't have a roadmap anymore. A lot of the stuffing has been knocked out of them in terms of clarity of process despite the great result. It was also a very poor turnout and the propaganda is the unionists stayed home.

    1. "They didn't get that support and what do they do now?"

      And what could they have done differently and how would that have left them in a better position than they are now?

      No answer? Thought not.

    2. "If the UK say it's illegal"

      The UK Government can't just "say it's illegal". That's for the courts to decide, and there's certainly no question of a democratic vote being literally 'criminalised' in this country. Our culture is completely different in that respect to Spain's.

      If the Supreme Court do not uphold a law paving the way for a referendum, though, there's no way on earth that a plebiscitary election will not be 'legal'. It's simply a scheduled election.

    3. Erm...they couldn't have done anything materially differently. They could have potentially not gone ahead with the referendum given they didn't win a majority of votes - only seats - in the Generalitat but to be honest I don't think that would have made any difference to Madrid or the EU.

      They tried hard to get international recognition prior to the vote , even recruiting foreign observers etc.

      The point is it didn't make a bit of difference. You either have international support or you don't. That's key to anything without London agreement. We can only hope countries see us differently.

      The fact remains ERC/Junts/CUP won an election yesterday and have zero paths to independence. No doubt they could stay in regional power for years to come but they've already played their highest card.

      I've no doubt the SNP could similarly be in power for years too on an indy ticket , doesn't mean were any closer to indy without a proper roadmap with international support.

    4. "The point is it didn't make a bit of difference."

      So what you're saying is that if they'd acted differently, they wouldn't have independence, they'd have no prospect of independence, and the only possible difference is that they might not have won a majority of the popular vote yesterday.

      I'm struggling to see your point here.

    5. Struggling to see where I've said they wouldn't have won a majority yesterday ...

      The point is they are in power but a massive "so what" when it comes to independence strategy. They're further behind than ever and youre headline about this blowing holes in anything to do with us is not merited.

      Sure the snp and erc/junts/cup might win elections for a good while yet but without a strategy the number one aim is aimless.

      You're making out like the catalan strategy has brought success. I know them personally and yes they've won power in a regional assembly but nobody seriously over there has a clue about what their next step is.

      When/if we go ahead with a vote we need to make sure we have external backing or we're going the same way.

    6. "Struggling to see where I've said they wouldn't have won a majority yesterday"

      You're certainly in no position to say they would have done - they didn't at any point before the UDI, so it's reasonable to at least consider the strong possibility that the UDI tactic led to this outcome.

      "You're making out like the catalan strategy has brought success."

      If you're saying that an unprecedented election victory is not a "success", then again I have to say I simply don't understand the point you're making. As I understand it, losing elections is exactly what Pete Wishart is worried about. He thinks putting independence on the backburner is a price worth paying if it will prevent the SNP from alienating voters and losing elections. But the election was won yesterday. Handsomely.

      By the way, we are not going to have "external backing" for a consultative vote. Arguing we have to wait for external backing that you know perfectly well is never going to arrive is intellectually dishonest.

    7. The unthinkable: Stand in seats in the rest of Spain.

      You don't have to win a majority there, you just have to make it impossible for the regular parties to govern, unless they go into a grand coalition/national government/whatever. Deploy spoiler candidates who could knock out the otherwise-first place and hand seats to otherwise-second places in key seats.

      This is applicable to Scottish Independence, albeit only if things are delayed to 2024(or Johnson goes for a snap election). If they insist that a Westminster majority is required? So be it.

      You know what'd be cheeky? Polling the rUK with a question along the lines of "If Nicola Sturgeon stood for Prime Minister and the Scottish National Party stood candidates in the rest of the UK with a policy of delivering English, Scottish and Welsh Independence, would you consider voting for them?"

    8. We'll I dont agree with Pete Wishart on that then, fair enough.

      I can only say what I'm sensing over there. They have won but you'd be surprised how dispirited they are when it comes to moving forward. If the goal is to win regional elections, then yes they've been successful.

    9. Their strategy certainly seems better that the Spanish unionist approach. Spanish unionists seem as f'n useless as our own.

      And I don't see why an incoming pro-indy government can't go ahead an organise another consultative referendum. Clearly the spanish jackboots didn't go down well last time, hence the pro-indy parties gaining strength.

      Another invasion of Franco's stormtroopers could only boost indy support again, eating away at unionism.

      It is what the indy parties need there; to get a solid, consistent majority behind them.

    10. The real issue in Catalunya is that the Spanish Constitution does not permit referendums on Independence AND the UN decreed last time that Catalunya did not meet the criteria for self determination. They are between a rock & a hard place.

  2. As I'm not Catalonian, I don't have a position in its independence. However, it's hard to disagree that Catalonians constitute a people, so should be allowed to self-determine.

    Certainly, if a majority of Catalonians clearly support independence, then that concludes they are a people so have the right to be one.

    What the result definitely shows is that just telling people 'No' does not increase support for unions and in fact is more likely to push people towards independence.

    It's also a lesson for London. If you want to stop a UDI, you need to send in the jackboots. The reason the international community didn't recognize indy is because Spain took back control. There was nothing to recognise. If Spain had not gone in, it would be a tactic acceptance of the result. Other neigbours would follow suit.

    Johnson will need to do the same if he wants to overturn a referendum here; English fascists on Scottish streets. Close down Holyrood on at least a temporary basis etc. Bring in English police to take control of police Scotland etc.

    Pretty much guarantee the end of the union democratically and justify mass civil disobedience. Even violence if in self defense from attacks by 'foreign' English troops.

    As for what Catalonia can do next; well they could hold another referendum based on the increase in support, forcing Spain to act like the brutal dictator again. Except this time the socialists are in charge rather than the right, and they are more inclined to talk rather than shoot?

  3. Westminster has already obtained legal advice, that is why they keep saying, now is not the time, instead of NO.

  4. Ps I said "UK" shorthand for UK authorities including the supreme court. If it's outside of competence, it's illegal. I didn't say UK govt.

    If we use a Scottish parliament election it still will require UK govt recognition of the result. Only done either by external international pressure or a change of heart. They can still ignore the result.

    1. "If it's outside of competence, it's illegal."

      That's a very misleading claim, because some people will wrongly take "illegal" to mean "criminal" in the same way that the Catalan referendum led to people being put in jail. A referendum in this country that exceeded Holyrood's powers would not be illegal, it would simply have no legal effect. That's a very big difference.

      "If we use a Scottish parliament election it still will require UK govt recognition of the result."

      Of course, and again: what's your point here? Doubting whether the UK govt would respect a mandate is not an argument against seeking a mandate, unless you can somehow demonstrate how that would leave us worse off.

    2. No you can't ignore it. You need to send in troops to stop a UDI. That or accept it.

      If Spain could have just ignored the last Catalan referendum and gone for a siesta before heading to the beach for a sangria, it would have. But it couldn't; it needed to send in jackboots to take back control. If it didn't the catalans could have started getting on with indy.

      Same in Belarus...Myanmar...

      If you want to stop democracy, you need to use violent repression. Declaring things illegal just doesn't work as how can people voting freely and fairly be illegal other than in dictatorships? If you are not prepared to shoot at them, they'll just get on with things.

    3. We should seek a mandate and we may well have to without UK permission. We'll be in a worse off position if we do what the catalans did and do it all too early and with a split country. I.e. declare Udi when it's extremely close to 50/50 and have no external support.

      I suspect we've been told externally we'll only be backed if the result is crystal ie well above 50percent and high turnout.

      I suspect the likes of Pete and Nicola sense we're not quite there yet and are stalling for time thinking higher results are on the way in the next 5 years or so as younger generation bites. And if the results don't start to go higher by then the whole game is a bogey anyway.

    4. There is no legislation in place that says a referendum is outside competence. What is outside competence is putting the outcome of a positive referendum into action - that is putting in place the legislation to decree indeoendence.

    5. There is no legislation in place that says a referendum is outside competence. What is outside competence is putting the outcome of a positive referendum into action - that is putting in place the legislation to decree indeoendence.

      Actually, that's not true either. Even if you put forward the Scotland act, it says matters of the union are reserved. That's devolution, UK defense etc. Independence isn't a matter for the union as it only relates to Scotland. It's covered by international covenants on self determination. The UK even legally advocated UDI such as in its UN submissions on Kosovo.

      What Scotland cannot do is force England to accept the result. No domestic or international law can force that. Just political pressure, sanctions etc.

  5. Britnat Westminster could pass a law stating all Scots should be branded with "UK" on their foreheads. Anyone fighting such an anti-Scottish law would be taking "illegal" action, according to britnat Westminster. The likes of Pete Wishart would probably accept Westminster's version of legality. However, I believe there would be people in Scotland prepared to fight to challenge such a law.

    I believe there are many people in Scotland today who would, in the face of such blatant britnat intransigence towards indyref2, would support UDI.

  6. English fascist troops on the street declare Udi. This stuff is hilarious.
    lesson for London. If you want to stop a UDI, you need to send in the jackboots.
    Is this Scotland version of Q.🤣

    1. How else are UDIs ultimately stopped globally but by this method?

      I'm an Irish national; it's what the Brits did to Ireland.

      However, I suspect Boris husnae the baws, so if we vote yes, we can just freely go ahead and start organising indy.

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  8. I declare Udi from now on Easterhouse will be known as an independent country. Anyone from Barlanark, Shettleston or Baillieston will no need a passport to enter.

    1. Whit aboot folks that want salt 'n' sauce rather than vinegar?

  9. James I agree wholeheartedly with that article.

    The current SNP leadership have turned too many independence supporters in to fearties scared of their own shadow.

    Catalonia is not in the same constitutional position as Scotland. Did the UK declare UDI from the EU - no because it was in a Union. Just the same as Scotland is in a Union with England. So legally Scotland cannot declare UDI. Scotland either stays in the UK union or it does not.

    People like Wishart are all for independence but not in his lifetime.

  10. If the SNP just put a mandate for ACTUAL independence in their manifesto then all these discussions become irelevant. The people of Scotland will either have voted for independence or they will not by May of this year.

    The current leadership are useless and have no courage to achieve Scottish independence even if you believe they would like independence.

    1. What happens if they didn't get 50% of the vote like in every election they've ever stood in?

      And they can hold a snap election if a referendum can't proceed.

    2. Smearer Skier (liar since 2014) - what a humungously DUMB question.

      The answer is contained in my post above. Campbell is correct you really really cannot read well.

  11. The dumber in dumb and dumber goes to Terence Callachan who keeps posting you have to be dumb to believe that AS and NS are at war with each other.

    What is wrong with people like Terence. I mean that is way beyond option 2 - Ignore. That is on another planet altogether. Terence needs help.

  12. People arguing it is great that Sturgeon has got us high in the polls. The same people arguing that we are not that high in the polls to risk going for independence.

    So we are not in a great position then I ask?

    Yes we are they say - Sturgeon is brilliant.

    But not that brilliant we are going for independence anytime soon I say.

    Yes we are - have faith in the 11 point plan.

    Is that because it is one more than the Ten Commandments and was brought down from on high from the great one I say?

    Oh f**k off they say.

    1. IFS, Having great poll ratings is fine, but much better when they're turned into numbers of MSPs after May.
      Why would you "Act" on poll figures when you can see the true situation revealed by an actual election.

    2. Ramstam - so if the result of Mays election does not deliver a majority for whatever the manifesto says is a mandate for a referendum then Sturgeon has to go as she has failed.

      If the result does deliver a mandate for a referendum how long are you willing to wait before you think this is a scam - 1 year 2 years 4 years 8 years ......... if no referendum occurs for whatever reason/excuse.

  13. Replies
    1. Those happiest with a 53% turnout would be the Unionists.
      They've tried hard to suppress democracy.
      In Scotland we have the "why bother voting, Boris'll just say No" tendency.
      It's a ploy - ignore the siren voices.

    2. This was because voters were beaten up by foreign spanish Franco jackboots deliberately sent in to disrupt the vote.

      Like if English troops crossed the border en masse and then started hitting Scottish grannies with battons as they tried to vote.

      Would likely reduce turnout.

      Still, 53% is a majority of voters.

    3. The election was imposed on the Catalans by the Spanish Government. The Catalan Government wanted to postpone the elections for a little while longer. The Spanish Government thought otherwise. The pro-Unionist block did worse than expected.

    4. 53% of 53% is not much more than a quarter of the electorate voting for separatist parties.

  14. James, I'd like to know what your plan for the Catalan independence movement would be, were you the person in charge. They have an outright majority for pro-independence-parties, both in terms of seats, and popular vote. That's great. But what now?

    1. Organise another referendum if you feel the public are behind you. Democracy should allow for as many as you like.

      'If at first you don't succeed, try try again'.

      Worst that can happen is Franco's jackboots are sent in again pushing support for independence to even higher levels. Eventually, the union will break if that keeps happening, particularly as the international community will look on with growing concern just as it is doing for Belarus and Myanmar. They look on with even greater concern when a big country (Spain, england...) is bullying an ethnic minority (Catalans...Scots).

    2. Skier, the worst case scenario you describe sounds more like a best-case to me, in terms of bringing the country closer to independence.

      What I find more likely to happen: people get tired of the repeated cycle and eventually stay at home. The strategy of total blockade employed by the Spanish central government looks really primitive, but might just succeed wearing the movement down. As long as they don't get too violent and risk provoking other European countries backing the independence movement.

      The president of Belarus is also still in power, and so is the Junta of Myanmar.

  15. A lesson for those on here accusing Scottish politicians of serious crimes yet not going to the police with the evidence they claim to have.

    Edinburgh MP Joanna Cherry reports fresh 'incident of concern' to police

    ...I’ve spent the morning arranging enhanced security at my home & reporting another incident of concern to police. Unfounded allegations & calls to arms on twitter have consequences & I hope politicians from all parties will bear this in mind.

  16. Looking at the figures given, it does not look like a "breakthrough". Indies got just 50.7% of the vote and only 3.1% more than they got last time. Mainly down to the appearance of the Partit Demòcrata Europeu Català and their 2.7%. The established Indy parties only increased their share by 0.4 points. And were they not already in the majority, seat-wise, anyway. Has that changed significantly?

    Its great to see them breaking 50% but it doesn't make Indy a slam dunk by any means. In reality, little seems to have changed.

    1. A majority of votes were for pro-indy parties. Has that happened before?

      If it reflects a shift in opinion, then it would mean Catalonia now supports indepenedence and is no longer unionist. However small a change that might be in terms of votes, it would completely flip things around.

      For a start, if most Catalonians favour independence, then they clearly become a people by commonly agreeing that's what they are.

      You only need to look at Scotland to see the blind panic that's set in on the unionist side now that Scotland isn't unionist any more (it seems).