Today in The National newspaper, George Kerevan, ex-journalist and SNP MP, has a long opinion piece on Catalonia and Spain entitled Madrid has carried out a coup – and it directly affects Scotland. It’s far from the first time he’s given his opinion on the subject but his latest effort is so full of meretricious nonsense and half-baked propaganda that it deserves a detailed textual analysis for its lies and half-truths. Do read the whole article but compare and contrast it with some real facts. I put his claims in italics; my comments follow.
Yesterday, the exiled, deposed president of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont, was arrested by German security forces, on a European warrant issued by the neo-Francoist Popular Party government in Madrid. You can say many critical things about the PP. ‘Neo-Francoist’ is not one of them. Franco was a fascist: ‘fascism tends to include a belief in the supremacy of one national or ethnic group, a contempt for democracy, an insistence on obedience to a powerful leader, and a strong demagogic approach’ (Oxford online dictionary). That’s not the PP. They’re flawed but they are a democratic political party. They’ve been in and out of power as a result of elections, unlike Franco. This is the old trope of damning by (false) association.
Puigdemont is (literally) charged with “rebellion”, for organising a democratic referendum on Catalan independence last October. He didn’t organise a democratic referendum. He organised an illegal pseudo-referendum by defying the decision of democratic Spain’s constitutional court that the referendum should be suspended.
The only violence that occurred during that referendum was perpetrated by the Spanish Guardia Civil when it attacked polling stations and battoned old ladies to the ground. For ‘attacked polling stations’ read ‘attempted to stop the opening of illegal polling stations’. I’ve acknowledged elsewhere that police violence on the day of the poll was not right. But it was far from the parody of ‘battoning old ladies to the ground’.
… the political regime in Madrid is nowhere near as democratic as it pretends. There is no ‘political regime’ that pretends anything. There’s a diverse elected Spanish parliament with most shades of political and regional opinion represented.
When Franco died in his bed in 1975, the Francoist regime quietly morphed into its current reincarnation. The old order … simply adopted a veneer of democracy behind a resurrected monarchy. This is a bizarre claim. After Franco’s death the wisdom of politicians of nearly all shades ensured a peaceful transition to a modern democracy guaranteed by a written constitution that was approved by a majority of all Spaniards in a 1978 referendum. Through the decisive action of King Juan Carlos, the ‘resurrected monarchy’ (note the unspoken implication of something unpalatable) was instrumental in saving democracy in 1981 when there was an attempted far-right coup.
Anyone threatening the status quo meets repression … . Kerevan makes the claim, he should be willing to justify it. I don’t believe it for one moment.
… That repression included secret death squads recruited and paid for by the Spanish Ministry of the Interior to hunt down Basque separatists hiding in France, during the 1980s. From an unsustainable claim in the present tense, Kerevan glides seamlessly without any link to a situation a quarter of a century ago. The ‘Basque separatists’ were not democratic politicians. They were ETA terrorists who killed about 120 people in Spain during the 1980s including civilians and children (see list here).
It [’that repression’] includes maintaining more police and paramilitaries per head than any European country west of Putin’s Russia. I’m not sure where Kerevan gets his data. The most recent comparative figures I could find on police numbers (I don’t know what Kerevan means by ‘paramilitaries’ – maybe he doesn’t) were for 2007 from Eurostat. It showed Spain had 4.8 police officers per 1000 population, compared with a not dissimilar 4.2 per 1000 in Italy. Neither level suggests an over-repressive police state. I suspect too that the devolved nature of Spanish democracy bumps the numbers up, with Policia Nacional, Guardia Civil, local police and, in Catalonia, the Mossos.
Catalan demands for independence threaten the existence of the regime. No, it threatens the integrity of Spain, not ‘the existence of the regime’, whatever Kerevan means by that.
On Friday, a politically-appointed Spanish court ordered the mass arrest and trial of most of the senior elected and civic representatives of the Catalan people. I’m not sure what ‘politically-appointed’ court Kerevan means. Thomson Reuters Practical Law web site sets out how the Spanish judiciary is selected and appointed (sections 16 and 17). There is no reference to politically-appointed courts. Incidentally, I assume ‘senior elected and civic representatives of the Catalan people’ means those representatives who promoted the illegal referendum. Many such representatives supported neither the referendum nor independence. And there was no ‘mass arrest’ (note the Stalinist overtones). There were a couple of dozen individual cases, each dealt with by due process of law.
Make no mistake: this is a soft coup by the Popular Party regime in Madrid, and its compliant, so-called “constitutional” court. It’s not a coup and it’s not a ‘so-called’ constitutional court. It is the constitutional court as described in Part IX of the Spanish constitution and it is certainly not a creature of the Popular Party.
It is a coup [sic] that affects Scotland directly. No it doesn’t. It’s nothing to do with Scotland or our devolved parliament. The only interest is the concern of many Scottish nationalists to thwart the execution of an EU warrant taken out by Spain against Clara Ponsati, a Spanish/Catalan academic at a Scottish university. That issue is solely for UK law.
[That warrant was issued] as part of this weekend’s wave of repression. A few warrants issued under due process of law is not a ‘wave of repression’.
Madrid hopes to decapitate the Catalan independence movement. Sadly, the movement itself is disoriented following the strange decision by Puigdemont to first declare a Catalan republic – which everyone took to mean declaring unilateral independence – then flee into exile. Well ‘strange decision’ (for which in my view read ‘cowardly’) is about the one thing in Kerevan’s piece I can agree with.
The pro-independence parties won the election in late December … . Oh George, I’m losing patience with your nonsense. The Catalan voting system is weighted in favour of rural areas and smaller towns, where the enthusiasm for separation is greater. So although the pro-independence parties won 70 seats, a bare majority of two, they only received 49.09% of the votes. If anything, there is a stalemate in the region, far from the unanimous clamour for separation that Scottish nationalists often assume.
It is important to note how the right-wing Popular Party government in Madrid is applying direct rule … . Left or right wing has nothing to do with it. The decision was of the Spanish parliament. The left-wing PSOE voted for the move too.
Madrid is halting the use of Catalan as the first teaching language in local schools – an example of cultural fascism. I’m not sure ‘halting’ is even strictly correct (advice from readers welcome). Even if it is – ‘cultural fascism’? A good case could be made for the opposing point of view – the cultural fascism of Catalan nationalist political parties who have forced their language down the throats of many native Spanish speakers in Catalonia.
We need to bombard the Scottish Government with appeals to reject the warrant for Clara’s arrest on the grounds it is politically motivated. See reference above to extradition being no concern of the devolved administration of Scotland. Scottish government politicians would be wise to maintain a discreet silence on the whole subject. Alas, wisdom on issues of phoney solidarity is not the norm for them.
Kerevan ends his contentious article with a classic piece of nationalist hyperbole:
Democracy is under siege in Catalonia, as it was in 1936.
If they come for Clara Ponsati today, they will come for the rest of us tomorrow.
The whole article is so deficient in truth and understanding that these crass claims scarcely register after wading through the preceding thousand words.
File under ‘Nonsense: nationalist’.
Search the blog for ‘Kerevan’ to find other nonsense perpetrated by this man.