By Emyr Gruffydd, Vice Chair of Cymru X - Plaid Cymru Youth
As Vice-Chair of Plaid Cymru Youth, I also have responsibility over European affairs. In two weeks, I will be going to Friesland to the European Free Alliance Youth's Annual Assembly, where I will get the chance to speak to our European comrades about the situation in their countries and learn from their experiences as young campaigners for their political parties. I am hugely interested in European affairs after living for a year in France and in Galicia, and in this post, I'd really like to take a quick look over the situation of our sister parties in Catalonia and Galica. I passionately believe that it is important to look further than Scotland, or the 'British' perspective, as some nations, such as Galicia, are in a very similar situation to us.
The Scottish situation is known to most of this blog's followers by now; a referendum will be held in 2014 by the SNP administration in Edinburgh, and I know of many a Plaid Youth activist that'll be making the trip up to Scotland to canvass for the Yes campaign. Opinion polls vary significantly on the support for Scottish Independence - anything from 38% to 51% of the population say that they are in favour. This scenario to me seems similar to another stateless nation in Europe - Catalonia - where around 44% of the population, according to a recent poll, would vote Yes in a referendum on Catalan independence if it were held tomorrow.
Why, therefore, is there no referendum planned in Catalonia? Well, think back two years to the various referenda held in the country - however, these were organsied by Catalan Nationalists and not deemed official by the Spanish Constitutional Court. Turnout was also low in some parts - many mountain villages registered turnouts of near 90%, whereas turnout in the city of Barcelona itself was only about 26%.
Nationalist parties historically do well in Catalonia, and at the moment, a 'Catalanist' center-right party, Convergencia i Unió, is in goverment. However, this party, which historically garners support from the Catalan speaking bourgoisie, does not include constitutional independence as one of its priorities - indeed, on its website, there is no mention of independence at all. Its youth wing is considered pro-independence, and many politicians within CiU have expressed support for the idea, but the party remains very ambiguous over the idea.
But many other home-grown parties, wit no links to Madrid, exist in Catalonia. Our sister party in EFA, Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya, is a republican, left wing party that supports independence for the country. It garners support from about 8-10% of the electorate, mainly in small towns in the center of Catalonia but also has strong support amongst the Catalan youth. JERC, their youth wing, is a highly successful organisation, which holds a yearly political and music festival, the Acampada Jove, attended by hundreds of young people. Another Catalan political party is Solidaritat Catalana per la Independència - a party dedicaded solely to fighting for independence. Solidaritat accuses ERC of being sluggish over the issue of independence, and was formed by a group of disillusioned ERC, CiU and Regrupament members (another Catalanist political party) along Joan Laporta, ex-manager of Barcelona Football Club, of which I am a lifelong, massive fan! ;) Many well known Catalan intelectuals have also joined the formation. And I'm not going to start mentioning another independence seeking, radical left wing party which contests local elections, the Candidatura d'Unitat Popular...
Galician Nationalism is even more confusing - but bear with me while I try my utmost to explain the details. The Galician National Bloc, the BNG, is the only Nationalist Formation that has any substantial representation within Galician politics. A fragmented party, it includes groups that are communist, liberal, centrist, social-democratic and some that are definitiely not convinced about the idea of Galician Independence. Recently, a group lead by the ex-leader of the BNG, Xosé Manuel Beiras, has been considering leaving the BNG to set up their own party, Máis Galiza - and the only people laughing are the Partido Popular, or the Conservative and Unionist Party, which is in government both in Santiago de Compostela and in Madrid.
So, why have I chosen to look at these examples? What I believe that we can learn from these nations, especially Scotland, is that unity is key to ensuring a strong Nationalist movement. The SNP is the only progressive choice for supporters of independence in Scotland, as it stands out as a strong, united movement, but there seems to be a lot more choice for nationalists in Catalonia. 44% of the Catalan people want independence - but those parties that support it still seem to be bickering amongst each other. With Plaid Cymru going through a leadership election at the moment, we need to take a long hard look at ourselves and think how we are going to get 44% of the Welsh population , interested in the national cause, let alone interested in independence. The only answer I seem to be able to find to this is that we ensure that we remain wholly united in our call for a free Wales under our new leader, whoever she may be.
Fersiwn Gymraeg i ddilyn.