Originally published in VilaWeb, 22 Feb 2013
The first test of the Scottish Referendum was a small disaster. Yesterday, 62% at the University of Glasgow voted against independence in a straw poll that looked to imitate the Catalan straw polls of 2010-2011 and therefore prepare the road towards the official referendum that will take place next year. A referendum that all observers, unfortunately, agree on forecasting as a defeat for Scottish nationalism.
It's sad that that's the case, but, even though we are not very accustomed to taking ourselves seriously, perhaps we might take advantage of the situation to point out some notable differences between their situation and our own. Two of the most noteworthy: the broad base of support and the origin of the proposal. From above in the Scottish case, from the ground in Catalonia.
It's true, and obvious, that the different attitudes of the British and Spanish governments work to our advantage. But that's not the whole story. In Scotland the process is being managed almost exclusively by the Scottish National Party, which faces a ideologically diverse coalition of opposing forces which claim to represent a cross-section of Scottish society. In Catalonia, on the other hand, and this was made quite clear in the last elections, the citizenry want the process to be led not by a single party or single leader, but by a coalition that crosses party and ideological lines. Which is of course more complicated to manage, but also much more robust.
In Catalonia, in contrast with Scotland, the pro-independence movement is first and foremost a grass-roots movement, that has pushed the political parties toward an ever clearer position. It's not anyone's political machinations, but rather a collective need spearheaded by the community, and manifested through various successful initiatives, from the straw polls to the demonstrations, just to name a few.
In Scotland, the independentists have to work hard if they want to win the referendum, and right now it seems like a very difficult mission indeed. Which makes me think two things. First, it'll be better for us to hold our referendum before theirs. And second, it's about time, without any false modesty, that we give ourselves a little credit for the road traveled—so well!—up to this point. And at the same time it would be great if we could shed our fears about winning our future.