A FEW years ago, DNA tests suggested that the earliest inhabitants of Scotland could have included people who had made their way to these islands from Galicia in Spain.

Situated at the north-west of the Iberian peninsula, Galicia is now an autonomous region of Spain, having been a kingdom in its own right over many centuries of its history.

Its main cities include Santiago de Compostela, Pontevedra and Vigo, the second largest fishing port in the world in terms of fish landed.

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The Galicians have their own language which is spoken as a first language by more than half the 2.8 million people who live there, while 43 per cent claim Castilian Spanish as their first language – most people speak or understand both.

Galicia was going to have its own autonomous government as long ago as 1936, but Franco intervened and it was not until after the death of the dictator in 1975 and Spain’s resumption as a democratic constitutional monarchy that Galicia did indeed become autonomous in 1981.

Even back then, autonomy was not enough for many Galicians, and there are now two main splits in the Galician national movement – those who want outright independence and those who want Spain to become a federal state with Galicia leading the way in self-determination for the various peoples of Spain.

Remarkably, the several political parties in Galicia who are separatist and leftist have combined into one movement, the Bloque Nacionalista Galego (BNG). That is remarkable because the left in many countries is usually too busy faction fighting to achieve anything.

The BNG has achieved some success, but it is only one of about 30 parties, organisations and unions who could be described as separatist.

Like every other region of Spain, the people of Galicia are awaiting the outcome of the referendum scheduled for Catalonia on October 1, though of course the Spanish Government is still fighting it through the court system.

Therein lies a problem for the Galician independence movement, for a staunch opponent of Catalonia’s referendum is Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy, who was born in Santiago de Compostela in 1955 and is a graduate of the city’s university. That is the same Rajoy who stated that an independent Scotland would have to reapply for membership of the European Union.

He has been quiet on that matter since Brexit was triggered, but his opposition to Catalonian and Galician independence is a matter of record and thus he is likely to continue his stance against any country breaking from a bigger union.

The BNG and the Alternativa Galega Esquerda (Galician Left Alternative or AGE), the other left-wing party campaigning for self-determination, are both led by women, Ana Ponton and Lidia Senra MEP.

Senra in particular has had a high profile and in June she showed her determination to preserve Galician culture and language by addressing the European Parliament in her native Galician language, and it is that language and attempts to downgrade it which have become a real focus point for the Galician nationalists – like Aragon, the people’s defence of their language and culture may yet trigger a greater demand for independence.

Senra pointed out that the European Parliament continues to disallow MEPs of nations without a state the right to use their minority languages, since interpreting services are not allowed.

She accused Rajoy’s government of “violation of our linguistic rights by those who have the obligation to protect it” and demanded “the means to guarantee the full normalisation of Galician and its use in all areas” before calling on the European Parliament and its president Antonio Tajani to guarantee the full recognition of Galician language rights.

It was a rallying cry that struck a chord with many Galicians and may yet be seen as the starting point of something more significant for the region.