As I write, the flags of Scotland (or 45% of them, at least) are at proverbial half-mast.
I woke up on Friday, September 19th, 2014 to the sentence that will stay with me for the rest of my life: ‘Scotland Says ‘No’ to Independence’. It was the first country ever to do so.
Beneath the low wail of the disenfranchised youth, cries of confusion could be heard thousands of miles away in Catalonia to the effect of, “What are you doing?! You’ve ruined it for all of us!”
We know, we know.
And we’re really sorry.
The truth is that, in the lead up to the devastating result, Catalonia had been Scotland’s closest ally. On the Wednesday before the referendum red and yellow candles in the shape of the Catalan flag were lit in Glasgow’s George Square as a message of solidarity. There to see it in the flesh were a spattering of Catalonians who had made the journey over – one group driving the whole way in a car painted with the Catalan colours – just in case the message wasn’t clear enough: we’re relying on you.
The media made it no less clear; barely a day went by where televised independence debates weren’t flanked by the obligatory ‘Catalan for Independence’, rallying against such characters as ‘Frenchman for Business’, ‘Englishman for Banks’, and ‘Spaniard for a United Spain’. That final one is a bone of particular contention for ‘Yes’ voting Scots (that’s 1,617, 989 of us, to be precise). After all; anti-independence comments made by one Mr. Mariano Rajoy were said to have had a huge impact on the vote. It was with alarming regularity throughout the campaign that I heard ‘No’ voters citing these comments with conviction, stating, “But Spain says we can’t join the EU if we get independence!” It is this belief without question that epitomises the whole independence debate in Scotland: Westminster says we use up all of the UK’s resources, but are (literally) begging us to stay… Sound familiar?
Two days after the referendum result, I still hadn’t left my house. It felt as though someone had died. In the window of a neighbour’s house, the giant ‘Yes’ that had once been there had been replaced with a heartbreaking ‘Why?’ It served as a bitter reminder that capitalism had, once again, won the battle against social justice. To further rub salt in the wound, it transpired that a ‘Yes’ vote had triumphed in all demographics except the ‘Over 50s’. The Baby Boomers – in their infinite wisdom – had struck again.
I received an email from a fellow ‘Yes’ voter with a quotation that said it all: “The old betrayed the young; the comfortable betrayed the poor. And the powerful betrayed us all”. The department stores claiming that they’d raise prices in an independent Scotland betrayed their loyal customers. The banks warning of financial woes betrayed those who had lost everything in the recession. The politicians promising more powers and reneging on those promises the very next day betrayed their trusting ‘No’ voters. And the Scots betrayed the Catalans.
But hope is not lost. Far from it.
Defeated, the ‘Yes’ voters picked themselves up. The ‘Yes’ stickers changed to ‘We’re Still Yes’, and collectives such as ‘The 45’ (representing the 45% of the population that voted ‘Yes’) took shape. Independence is still on the horizon for Scotland, but next time we want ‘The 100’. It’s only a matter of time before Catalonia votes in their own referendum, and we’re behind you. If I were to offer any advice to those on-the-fence Catalan voters, it would be this: Don’t be swayed by promises made by politicians, banks, or multi-national corporations. The day after the referendum, Standard Life – the insurance company whose comments about leaving Scotland in the event of a ‘Yes’ vote swayed thousands of ‘Maybe’s – announced that they would probably leave anyway. There is talk of public spending in Scotland being cut, and those magical extra powers have been all but vetoed. As Emma Goldman said: “If voting changed anything, they’d make it illegal.”
Vote well, Catalonia. We’ve got your back. Maybe if you get independence first, us Yes-voting Scots can come live there instead. I hear the food’s better.
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