Catalan separatism and the law
Sir, – As someone who divides his time between Spain and Ireland, I read with interest Paddy Woodworth’s article on the ongoing trial of the leaders of the Catalan separatist movement (Opinion & Analysis, February 13th).
He argues that Spain’s democracy is on trial. Another interpretation is to simply see it as a test of the rule of law, a fundamental pillar of a true democracy.
The Catalan leaders are not on trial for their beliefs, as they argue, but are accused of flagrantly violating both national and regional constitutional laws. The actions they took, in declaring independence following the unofficial referendum on October 1st, 2017, were in the face of very explicit advice from their own independent parliamentary legal advisers that their plans were unquestionably unconstitutional.
Paddy Woodworth says the separatists didn’t have a plan when they declared independence, but the law they rammed through the Catalan parliament at midnight on September 5th, 2017, without allowing any debate or input from the Opposition, would have given them sweeping powers, without human rights guarantees or any recognition of judicial independence. They also planned to nationalise all banks, take over all infrastructure belonging to the Spanish state and renege on debts owed to the Spanish government.
No government could stand idly by and allow that to happen. Hence the imposition of direct rule by Madrid. The big mistake the Madrid government made was the use of force on October 1st, 2017, to try to stop the illegal referendum going ahead, as it gave the separatists a propaganda weapon. What they should have done was ignore it, just as they did in 2014 with a consulta or dry-run for the planned referendum.
The logic of the position taken by the Catalan leadership is that the laws of the land should not apply to them. In a true democracy, no one is above the law. – Yours, etc,