As Catalonia prepares to have a referendum on its independence, Spain has tightened its grip on the democratic process, arresting members of the Catalonian Government and seizing ballot papers and boxes related to the Independence vote.
Although Labour is a ‘Unionist’ Party which believes in strength by virtue of common endeavour, it is also a party of democrats, internationalist and fighters for fundamental freedoms.The ability for the Catalonian people to have a democratic vote on their constitutional future must be protected and we must speak out against the Spanish Government and their Guerrilla tactics of democratic repression.
Whether or not you think that the vote is right or how you would vote yourself if you were there, the people of Catalonia deserve the right to choose their own future, protection under the law and access to democracy. Even if the party machinery doesn’t agree with the choice, we must speak out for their right to make that decision.
With each day that passes, more stories are revealed of the Guardia Civil arresting Catalonian Ministers, Mayors or Citizens, merely because they support independence. Regardless of what you think of Alex Salmond or David Cameron, they would not have arrested people for expressing the desire for constitutional change.
This blatant abuse of civil liberties must be condemned and it must be condemned by a Labour Party which, due to a fear of emboldening Plaid Cymru or SNP voices or being called ‘Pro-Independence’ by Conservatives, is not speaking out.
If you believe in Unionism, Socialism and common endeavour, you make the positive case for it, you do not silence opposition and close the ballot box. Not only are documents being seized and officials arrested, but the Spanish judges have placed secrecy orders on all Police operations, limiting the ability to hold the Government to account in their operation to shut down democracy in Catalonia.
Whilst individual Labour MPs have spoken out against the actions of the Spanish Government, the Party has failed to respond with a unified voice. Now, while it can be expected that there may not be a unified voice on the outcome of any Catalonian referendum, there should be no objection to the right to make that choice and to be free to express a desire to change the status quo.
If a million Welsh or Scottish Citizens had marched for devolved Parliaments and they were arrested, would we not defend their rights to free speech and to demand change? If the UK Government attempted to reverse devolution without a referendum, would we not deem this unacceptable?
The Spanish government has also moved to take control of Catalonia’s finances, in an attempt to stop public money being spent on the vote. Spain is preparing to take over funding of most public services, including the payment of workers’ salaries. We would not stand for this in Wales or Scotland, so why would we stand for it now?
The lack of an official response from the Party is deafening and we must speak now.