Scotland-Catalonia update – the first minister, the president, the professor, and the lawyer

Regular readers will know I turn occasionally to the connections between Scottish and Catalan nationalists. This week a couple of events came together to prompt another update and raise a few questions.

The first was the meeting yesterday between our first minister and the president of the Catalan devolved government, Quim Torra. The meeting was on government property at Bute House and she subsequently tweeted about it from her official government Twitter account, @ScotGovFM. This is relevant to what follows.

My first question is, should the first minister have met Mr Torra at all? The Guardian newspaper has called him a ‘hardline’ nationalist, citing the ‘“xenophobic” and anti-Spanish tone of his past writings and comments’. Here are some of his tweets from 2011-2014, subsequently deleted but then appearing in the Spanish newspaper El Periodico (translated by me with some online help):

The French and the Spanish share the same annihilating conception of the nations that live in their States

We own our own cars and we pay for everything, not like the Spaniards

We have been occupied by the Spaniards since 1714

Spaniards in Catalonia are like energy: they don’t disappear, they transform themselves into something else

Joking aside, if we go on like this for a few more years, we run the risk of ending up as crazy as the Spaniards themselves

Above all, what is surprising is the tone, the poor education, the Spanish snobbery, the nastiness. It’s horrific

Embarrassment is a word the Spaniards removed from their vocabulary years ago

Hearing Alberto Rivera [an anti-Catholic polemicist widely accused of fraud] speak of morality is like hearing Spaniards talk about democracy

Spaniards only know how to plunder

Catalan Socialist Party members, misguided people, speak Spanish like the Spaniards [The CSP is anti-separatist].

The Guardian also quotes an article entitled The language and the beasts he wrote for the Catalan website elMón in 2012 in which he described those who opposed the use of the Catalan language and objected to expressions of Catalan culture and traditions as:

carrion-feeders, vipers and hyenas … beasts in human form … It is a sick phobia. There is something Freudian in these beasts, a rough patch in their DNA.

This is not the language of the ‘civic’ nationalism beloved of the SNP. If you doubt its intent, try replacing Torra’s ‘Spaniards/Spanish’ with ‘British/English’ and see how it feels.

My second question is on an apparently separate issue – what’s going on with the Clara Ponsati fundraising? Professor Ponsati, you may remember, was briefly a minister in the Catalan generalitat (government) and is the subject of a European Arrest Warrant for extradition to Spain. She is being represented by human rights solicitor Aamer Anwar.

In March, an appeal for funds to fight her case entitled Defend Clara Ponsati from extradition to Spain appeared on the Crowd Justice website. As I write, it still has nine days to run and has raised £282,290 of a ‘stretch target’ of £500,000. In other words, it has raised only 56% so far of what it hoped to.

However, yesterday a second appeal was launched while the first was still underway – #DefendClara Stage Two: Urgent Extradition Hearing Appeal. Again as I write, this has raised £34,255 of a second stretch target, this time of £220,000. Here are the two appeals as they appear on the Crowd Justice website when you search for ‘Ponsati’:

With the exception of a mention in the Stage Two appeal that ‘Within 24 hours nearly £200,000 was raised on the previous [sic – it’s still current] legal campaign crowdfunding page’ there is no reference there (at least in the English text) to that first appeal. Back on the original appeal a note dated 11 July, and only in Catalan, has appeared directing potential donors to the Stage Two page.

There are two other curiosities. First, although both appeals are in the name of and by Ms Ponsati, the second begins with a long statement in Catalan against her name that concludes ‘Una salutació ben cordial, Aamer Anwar, Advocat de la Professora Clara Ponsatí’. Second, even though the two appeals together are far from their total stretch target, having reached only 44% of £720,000, the second maintains a statement in the original:

In the event that money is left over, we would redistribute it among the other cases of political persecution in Catalonia [via Google Translate].

The whole thing is very confusing. Why start a second appeal when the first is still open? Did that first appeal stall, far from the sum required? If so, is the second appeal no more than a device to capitalise on the visit of Mr Torra to Scotland in the hope that it would prompt more contributions? And if you’re so far from your target, why retain a statement about surplus funds being used for  other (unknown) cases?

Reverting to the Sturgeon/Torra meeting yesterday, the first minister tweeted a joint statement about it:

It’s a fairly bland effort and I doubt whether a fuller minute will ever emerge, although I note the irony of the implication in the last paragraph that our own 2014 referendum ‘resolved’ Scotland’s constitutional sovereignty. A referendum will, of course, only ever resolve such a question for nationalists when they get the answer they want.

What the joint statement doesn’t do is say who was at the Bute House meeting, and here we’re lucky enough to have a video taken of the participants emerging. You can see the whole video on YouTube if you can bear the grunting impromptu voiceover. My attention was directed to 22:20 where you will see this image:

In the foreground, Mr Torra and behind him, also having emerged from Bute House and replete with yellow pro-separatist Catalonia ribbon … Aamer Anwar.

I noted earlier that the meeting was on government property and the first minister tweeted about it from her official government Twitter account. So, the most interesting question of all, and neatly linking the two topics this post has been about – what was the lawyer for a defendant in a highly-political extradition court case doing in an official meeting between the first minister and the Catalan president?

At the beginning of the whole Ponsati saga, the first minister said:

I know that many will wish that @scotgov was able to do or say more – I understand that. But I hope there can also be an understanding of the position as outlined and the importance of protecting due process and the independence of our legal system (The Scotsman).

That was a cautious and proper approach. Has it now been abandoned? And why was Mr Anwar in that meeting?

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