Over the last few months there has been flurry or even a slew of articles about Catalonia in the English press, most of them awash with historical innaccuracies and barely disguised prejudice. The Times's man in Madrid, for example, informed us that in 1714 Catalonia (and the rest of the Crown of Aragon) was 'bought' by the Crown of Castile, which makes you wonder why parts of Barcelona were then razed to the ground, cannons pointed at its centre, and the populations of so many Catalan towns and villages decimated (perhaps the price wasn't right); and the Guardian's Barcelona stringer, in a piece about expats' views on secession, interviewed five who were against it and skewed the words of the one who wasn't. Etcetera. So it was a pleasant surprise when, in late December, an English paper (The Times) published what is probably the best, and best-informed article so far on the situation here. Written by the columnist Matthew Parris (who has family in Catalonia and is the author of a book which concerns the area) the piece is a blistering attack on the way the Spanish government is handling Catalonia post 11/9. Parris - whose centre-right credentials, it would seem to me, lend extra weight to his comments – states that said government is 'making every mistake in the book' and that its refusing to recognise Catalonia's national identity is 'just bonkers' and that its anti-Catalan educational reforms are 'insulting, and meant to be'. This said, Parris is opposed to Catalan independence (an opinion as respectable as its opposite) believing as he does that Catalan secession would lead to a domino effect: a 'catastrophic slow-motion topple' of similar regions throughout Europe. However, I confess I can't see much evidence for this: in the Basque Country – which is financially hunky-dory - only 50% of the population want a referendum on independence, let alone independence itself; in Scotland, not 40% wish to leave the UK; Padania is a right-wing historical fantasy invented in order to financially badger Rome; Corsica is ridden with armed gangs, on whose agenda seccession has been relegated to the fine print... On the contrary, Catalonia, with its pro-independence majority which cuts across linguistic, class and 'ethnic' boundaries, is, quite simply, a unique case in Europe. As an alternative to secession, Parris suggests maximum devolution 'plus the vocabulary of nationhood'. That sounds reasonable enough, but - given that for nigh on 300 years monolingual Spain has been using Catalonia as a negative foil to enhance its own sense of national identity, thus guaranteeing that any party caught making major concessions to the Principality will be out of power for the next ten generations - it's never going to happen. We'd see a Plaid Cymru revival first.
Matthew Tree, Catalonia Today, febrer de 2013