30of September 2016
One big difference
After the British and Scottish governments signed the agreement for the holding of an independence referendum in 2014, public opinion and the media have rushed to point out the differences between the Spanish and British political handling of the respective territorial conflicts. Serious media outlets like France TV, The Guardian or Le Figaro have compared both governments’ responses, taking special note –yet again— of the British pragmatism. Although David Cameron has said that “we [the British conservatives] believe that we would be better off together,” he accepts the democratic principle that if the Scots decide to break away, no one would be able to oppose it. A grand lesson in statesmanship, as we remarked yesterday. In 2014 Cameron will campaign for Scots to vote to remain within the United Kingdom, of course. Willingly or unwillingly —surely because of international pressure—, the Spanish government at that time will surely do the same. Cameron will accept the results and will not place any obstacles in their path. The United Kingdom without Scotland will become Great Britain, without this being depicted as a tragedy. In exchange, Rajoy, or the Spanish leader at the time, will not make things quite so easy. We only have to take a look at the collection of absurd remarks we have heard from central Spain ever since President Artur Mas came back from Madrid with the proposal for a fiscal pact torn to shreds.

For the British and Scottish institutions those three hundred years of shared democracy have been useful for something: it has taught them —also by way of conflict— that change and pragmatism are the key to survival. Spaniards and Catalans, on the other hand, have lived these same three hundred years under the threat of the “pronunciamientos” [pronouncements] and the effects of four civil wars. Democracy cannot simply be fabricated; it is also an experience. The tension between the civil and military society in Spain has given voice to positionings that are extremely reactionary and ultra-conservative and, above all, to a culturally and linguistically based Spanish nationalism that is incapable of accepting Iberian national pluralism. Even the Portuguese have had to put up with this from the intellectual point of view. All you have to do is read Unamuno to realize it. The conservative idea that the nation makes the state is the foundation of those who stridently defend –always in Spanish— the indissoluble unity of the “nación española” [Spanish nation]. The consecration of the unitary state is, above all, nationalist. In contrast, in the United Kingdom they don’t need any sort of agglutinating nation to defend the state: it is sustained by the making of pacts. Their century-old institutions and the exercise of shared democracy is all that is necessary. The big difference, therefore, between the English and the Spanish is, precisely, one of political tradition.

[Catalan version]
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