Tele column – 30th March 2018

After the Catalonian referendum on the 1st of October 2017 some people that either felt the need to align themselves with Spain or maybe just wanted to childishly attempt to annoy those of us that support the Catalonian’s right to self-determination, posted the Spanish flag on social media. They were comfortable to align themselves with Spain despite the brutality that was inflicted upon citizens attempting to exercise their democratic right to vote. Media images of police beating people to the ground and throwing people down stairs didn’t deter their support. They seemed to see the Catalonia referendum as some perverse rerun of Scotland’s referendum in 2014. They gloried in a victory that echoed their own. As things have progressed the Spanish state has continued to usurp democracy. The Spanish Government’s latest act has been to seek the arrest and imprisonment of independence supporting politicians. Their crime was that they supported the democratic use of the ballot box. Spain’s Supreme Court has already remanded in custody five Catalan politicians, Jordi Turull, Josep Rull, Raül Romeva, Dolors Bassa and the former Catalan parliament speaker Carme Forcadell. Another target, Marta Rovira, failed to appear in court and has fled the country. One ex-Catalan minister, Clara Ponsati, has been working in Scotland as an economics researcher at Saint Andrew’s University. The Spanish Government has issued a European Arrest Warrant for Clara Ponsati and (at the time of writing) she is planning to hand herself in to the Scottish Police. The process for a European Arrest Warrant (EAW) is governed in the UK by the Extradition Act 2003 – a UK piece of legislation under international law. Subject to procedural checks the warrant is actioned by the Crown Office/Procurator Fiscal – independently of government. Anyone subject to an EAW is able to challenge their extradition in court and judges and sheriffs can refuse to grant the extradition on a range of grounds – including whether the offences are extraditable offences, whether there are extraneous circumstances (such as race, gender or political opinions) and they must also consider human rights implications. To ensure the integrity of the process, Scottish Government ministers will be limited in what can be said in the event that there is an arrest in Scotland. This silence must not be interpreted as compliance. St Andrews University has described the EAW as “a politically motivated attack on free speech” and I would echo that view. The Catalonian politicians are being persecuted for their political beliefs and we should all stand united against such discrimination, regardless of our views on Scotland’s independence.