Madrid’s violent tactics will only push Catalans towards independence. Por Daniel Hannan.
To see how Madrid has destroyed that status quo, try to imagine London taking a similar line over Scotland. Suppose that, instead of agreeing terms for a referendum with Alex Salmond, David Cameron had had him prosecuted. Picture Tory politicians in London calling for Scots to be ‘Anglicised’, as a Partido Popular minister demanded the Catalans be ‘Hispanicised’. Try to visualise Met officers knocking pensioners aside as they carted ballot boxes out of schools.
Scots would rightly have felt that they were being dealt with not as fellow citizens, but as conquered vassals. Most Irish people felt the same way following the bloody repression of the 1916 rising, when Dublin was treated not as a British city, but as an enemy redoubt. Republicanism went overnight from being a fringe position to having clear majority support. Telling people that they are not allowed to leave turns out to be a pretty good way of ensuring that they do.
A few weeks ago, I made this point to Raül Romeva, whom the Catalan Generalitat calls its foreign minister, at his exquisite headquarters in the 14th-century Cases dels Canonges, near Barcelona’s cathedral. The Gothic surroundings were magnificent, and his conversation was entertaining, so I had no desire to walk out. ‘But if I saw someone trying to lock me in, what do you think I’d do?’