THE CATALAN DEFENCE COMMITTEE SCOTLAND was launched on Monday in an effort to broaden the campaign of solidarity with Catalonia following the violent suppression of its independence referendum and subsequent anti-democratic actions by the Spanish state.
Modelled on the ‘committees in defence of the referendum’ set up by Catalan activists to protect polling stations during the vote, which were subject to interference and closure by Spanish authorities, the new Scottish organisation aims to advance Scottish solidarity efforts, which have already included widespread demonstrations and cross-party expressions of support.
In a statement on its newly launched website, the Catalan Defence Committee Scotland said: “The brutality and repression that has been visited upon the people of Catalonia cannot be allowed to continue, or to be legitimised.
“Hundreds of Scots have travelled to Catalonia to act as international observers, and to let the Spanish state know that the world is watching.
“At home, we have organised several demonstrations. News and pictures of these have circulated on Catalan social media, and we know that this has made a positive impact.
“But we need to do more. Catalan human rights organisations and social movements have called for international support. That is why we are organising the Catalan Defence Committee Scotland, to help maximise our solidarity efforts. The name mirrors the local referendum defence committees set up by Catalans to defend the referendum process by practising non-violent mass action.”
Initial signatories of the Catalan Defence Committee Scotland include the Scottish writer Alan Bissett, Scottish Independence Convention Vice-Convenor and journalist Lesley Riddoch, Scottish Green co-convenor Maggie Chapman, journalist and activist Cat Boyd, former Scottish Labour chairperson Bob Thompson, former SNP MP George Kerevan, Scottish Socialist Party national secretary Connor Beaton, RMT Scottish organiser Gordon Martin and Aina Tella, head of international relations for the leftwing Catalan political party Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP).
Signatory and activist Jonathon Shafi, a key organiser of the national Catalan solidarity demonstration in Edinburgh on 1 October, told CommonSpace: “The Catalan Defence Committee Scotland has been brought together to create a permanent solidarity campaign and to broaden the movement to unions, campaigns and everyone who wants to stand up for democracy – regardless of their views on independence.
“Our immediate aims will be to:
- Call for solidarity demonstrations and actions
- Build diplomatic pressure on the UK Government
- Organise motions and letters of support that can be passed through trade union branches, campaigns, political parties and so on
- Work to twin Scottish towns and cities with Catalonia
- Lobby MSPs and the Scottish Government to do all it can to support the civil rights of Catalans
- Build links with social movements and organisations in Catalonia
- Organise a tour of public meetings across Scotland to raise support and awareness
- Facilitate open organising meetings to develop local defence committees/solidarity actions
“We are already being inundated with messages of support and new signatories to this statement. We will deliver a wave of support as the repression of the Spanish state continues. We will defend democracy and see ourselves as being a part of a Europe-wide movement.”
This week, the already combative relations between the Spanish Government and the Catalan regional government worsened as Jordi Sanchez of the Catalan National Assembly (ANC) and Jordi Cuixart of Omnium Cultural, both organisers of the 1 October referendum, were arrested on charges of sedition by order of the Spanish National Court.
This followed Catalan President Carles Puigdemont’s signing of a declaration of independence last week, which was immediately delayed while Puigdemont sought dialogue with the Spanish Government, which critics and commentators have argued renders the document a symbolic statement of intent rather than an in-effect act of secession.