Yesterday I got back from a holiday – the only time of the year where I switch off from the world. I turned on my phone to see with horror what was happening in #Catalonia.
The actions of the Spanish authorities were shocking. Images beamed around the world of police violence against young and old alike who simply wanted to cast a democratic vote. I’m in awe of the voters who remained peaceful and dignified throughout. The image of a Catalan policeman in tears as he protected their rights will stay with me for a long time.
This isn’t about party politics. It isn’t about independence or nationalism in any form. It’s about democracy. Under the UN Charter, all peoples have the right to self-determination – the right to determine their own destiny. The right to vote should be something anyone who believes in democracy stands up for and defends.
But I am angry at the response from the UK Foreign Office:
“The referendum is a matter for the Spanish government and people. We want to see Spanish law and the Spanish constitution respected and the rule of law upheld. Spain is a close ally and a good friend, whose strength and unity matters to us.”
Really? No condemnation of the brutality and violence? Simply you’re our pal so we support you. As Nicola Sturgeon responded last night - A true friend of Spain would tell them their actions are wrong.
And the EU has been worryingly silent. Given it is a union founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, surely there must now be a question mark over whether Spain is fulfilling its EU treaty obligations.
Ultimately these actions will only fuel the desire for autonomy in Catalonia. Today the Catalonian Government has declared that the citizens of Catalonia have won the right to an independent state in the form of a republic. This isn’t over.
We need to talk about democracy. The UK government recently hosted its first ever “National Democracy Week” – with no sense of irony.
We absolutely should be celebrating the 90th anniversary of the equalisation of voting ages for men and women. Nobody would argue with that.