Like many others I have observed recent events in Catalonia with a growing sense of concern. I am struck by the international response because it seems to me some basic human rights are in question. For example, the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights enshrines the right of the people to determine their own government, and I do not believe I am alone in being anxious about the rights of the Catalan people in this regard.

If Catalonia were to become a precedent it seems every nation aspiring to self-determination may meet with equally hostile interventions which effectively prevent the will of the people from being heard. A unfortunate state of affairs, and you have to think that if this were to be applied retrospectively, long independent nations and states such as Australia, New Zealand and the USA would need to wave goodbye to their independence, dissolve their governments and once more resign themselves to external rule. If Australia sought self-determination today would she be granted independent status … and if they actively sought to establish the will of the Australian people … what would be the response? A few gunboats quickly sent round to Sydney harbour perhaps.

As an interested observer it feels like the Catalan Independence movement have done things by the democratic book, and yet by seeking to establish the will of the people through aforementioned democratic means have somehow incurred oppression. Why could this be happening and what is the motivation behind this seemingly disproportionate response? Catalonia is known to be resource rich … could one of the motivators be that the Spanish government seeks to retain this wealth within the wider Spanish state.

I would assert that the European Union has generally been a force for long term good. Since its inception nations have tended to cooperate to mutual advantage as opposed to competing through warfare and other means for the lion’s share of trade and resources. Ever since the European Coal and Steel Community was formed in 1951, economic cooperation has reigned and generally promoted peace and prosperity. However, there seems to be a visible sea change, and perhaps we are headed back to the days of darker rivalries between states for domination of the physical and material resources of the world. Indicators of this are the projected withdrawal of the UK from the Europe Union, the resurgence of right wing populist politics, and the apparent denial of Catalan aspirations. Its starting to feel like a world where the big states are out to control and basically take all they can for themselves. Perhaps a fundamental shift back to the old mercantilist systems, where resources were regarded as finite and an ethos of more for me inevitably means less for you pervaded everything. An observer once noted that mercantilism is a system ‘responsible for more vice, misery and wars than all other ‘errors’ taken together’ what a sad and sorry state of affairs. In his book ‘Scotland’s Empire’ Tom Devine concludes that mercantilism is underpinned by several basic assumptions, such as; might is right, wealth is finite, and therefore one nation can only expand at the expense of another. Devine suggests that this mindset legitimizes war, and ‘rampant’ protectionism. I believe he is right, and that mercantilism gives rise to extremism as surely as eggs are eggs.

Contemporary international politics manifests an escalation on the right wing, witness Donald Trump, and the rise of various populist parties. This tendency is visible in numerous parts of the world with the notable exception of nations such as Catalonia, Scotland and Quebec. These nations are probably the world’s best resistance to extremism, mercantilism and any possible flirtations with ultra-right-wing Fascism. Extremism and mercantilism have a tendency to sweep all before them and force nations and states into spirals of ultimate harm. In fact, so far as I can see, no good ever came from either. Mercantilism sits at the top of the slippery slope, through mercantilism big dominates small and resources are devoured with ever diminishing returns; extremism is unleashed; this is the specter currently haunting Europe and perhaps the world. Marx once famously said that ‘men make their own history, but not of their own free will; not under circumstances they themselves have chosen, but under the given and inherited circumstances with which they are confronted’. These are the days that confront us, and we need to respond to them in the way that seems best; support for nations seeking self-determination would, in my view, be an entirely appropriate response. The vision of self-determination for nations that have been part of a union or empire is a true reaffirmation of the values witnessed by the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, and it is no surprise that this was developed in the aftermath of Second World War, in the wake of tyrannies overthrown, and with an eye to a more hopeful future.

So, what are the messages for us in Scotland, another small nation with a vision of self-determination. Like many others I am disappointed by the glee expressed amongst unionists over events in Catalonia. Let us be under no illusions the journey to independence will be a difficult one, yet looking to the long term, we have a duty to future generations to ensure Scotland is in the best possible position to develop and move forward and this means we have to be prepared for the coming struggle. The current Catalan situation is a catalyst, and at a time of her choosing Scotland can and will move forward. I believe it was Einstein who said ‘learn from yesterday, live for today and hope for tomorrow; the important thing is not to stop questioning’ who are we to argue with Einstein.

Iain Lappin, Blairgowrie