‘We are Catalans’: Scots voice referendum solidarity

Sympathy with Catalonia's bid to hold an independence referendum next week is running high in Scotland, where lawmakers are increasingly vocal in condemning Spain's actions and a group of volunteers is heading out to help.

'We are Catalans': Scots voice referendum solidarity
Flags flutter as pro-Catalan independence supporters hold a rally in Glasgow, Scotland on September 21st. Photo: AFP

Veterans from Scotland's failed bid for independence in its own referendum in 2014 said they were travelling to Barcelona next week to offer their support for a vote deemed unconstitutional by Spain.

“We back the Catalans,” Rory Steel, vice convenor of the Scottish National Party's youth wing, who will be heading out with around 20 people, told AFP.    

“We're basically going over to find out a bit more about them, trade our experiences and expertise and that sort of thing, but also to support them.”   

READ MORE: Scottish leader raises concern over Catalonia crisis

Another delegation of politicians and writers is also planning to head over for the October 1st vote as observers, after a crackdown on the team organising the referendum and mass protests.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, head of the Scottish National Party, voiced her concern about the situation and called for dialogue in a debate in Scotland's semi-autonomous parliament last week.

“The right of self-determination is an important international principle and I hope very much that it will be respected,” said Sturgeon, calling for an agreement based on the deal that led to Scotland's own independence referendum in 2014.

'We are Catalans'

The support is coming not only from nationalists.   

An open letter to Spanish Prime Mariano Rajoy calling his actions “in no way democratic” received support from more than a dozen Scottish lawmakers including some opposed to Scottish independence.   

Scotland's referendum vote was won 55 percent to 45 percent by those who wanted to stay part of Britain.   

But Sturgeon has said that Scotland, which voted overwhelmingly to stay in the European Union in last year's referendum on EU membership, should have a right to vote again once the terms of a Brexit deal become clear.    

Former SNP MP George Kerevan, who founded the All Party Parliamentary Group on Catalonia, said: “The worst thing that we could do now is let that regime in Madrid crush Catalan democracy.

“If you believe in a Scottish democracy, if you believe in a Scottish right to vote, then you have to defend Catalonia's right to vote. We are Catalans and Catalans are Scottish,” he said.

There is a long-running affinity between Scottish and Catalan separatists.    


In the Scottish referendum, a group of Catalan firefighters came to  Scotland to lend their support to the independence movement in a convoy including a vintage car painted in the colours of Catalan flag.

Last year, Barcelona fans threatened to fly the Scotland flag at the Copa Del Rey final in Madrid after the government banned the Catalan flag, until the prohibition was overturned in court.

However, the SNP leadership kept Catalan separatists at arms length during their own referendum, as they sought to present Scottish independence as unique and prevent any international interference.

Precedent for Scotland?

The contrast between the Scottish and Catalan referendums could not be more stark.

London permitted Scotland's referendum to go ahead after a nationalist landslide in elections to the Scottish Parliament in 2011, and the campaign was widely regarded on both sides of the debate as a model of democratic engagement.

There were just a handful of arrests, mostly for minor disorder such as egg throwing and online abuse.

The detention of organisers and seizure of campaign material in Catalonia have shocked Scotland. 

Some in Scotland fear that if Madrid successfully suppresses the Catalan vote, it could set a precedent for London, which has refused to allow a re-run in Scotland in the near future. 

Jonathon Shafi, founder of Scotland's Radical Independence Campaign, said: “It is not beyond the realms of possibility that the British state might do the same thing years down the line if Scotland looks like it is going to move toward independence.

“If we allow the Spanish state to set the precedent that this type of anti-democratic practice can take place, then it is a precedent that is not just set for Spain, it's set for the United Kingdom and indeed beyond.   

“This is a question for the whole of Europe — and it's a question for democrats everywhere.”

By Mark Mclaughin / AFP

For members


14 Barcelona life hacks that will make you feel like a local

Barcelona is a popular city for foreign residents in Spain thanks to its coastal location, many international companies and great lifestyle. However, navigating life here can take some getting used to, so here are our top Barcelona life hacks to help make things easier for you.

14 Barcelona life hacks that will make you feel like a local
Barcelona life hacks. Image: Michal Jarmoluk / Pixabay

Invest in a good water filter

Barcelona tap water doesn’t taste the best, particularly in the areas around the Old Town such as El Born, the Gothic Quarter, Barceloneta and Raval. The water is also very hard, meaning that it leaves limescale on appliances such as your kettle.

Using a good water filter can improve the taste and make sure that limescale doesn’t build up. It’s also much more economical and healthier than buying bottled water every time you want a drink.

Use the Rodalies trains to get across the city faster

Many people when they first move to Barcelona just use the metro and don’t bother using the Rodalies trains. While it’s not always necessary, for certain journeys it can make getting across the city much faster.

For example, if you need to get from Sant Andreu or Clot to Sants to connect to one of the intercity trains, it’s only two or three stops on the Rodalies, as opposed to more than 10 on the metro, as well as changing to different lines.

Don’t try and get anything important done in August

This is probably true of most of Spain, but if you need to get anything important done, whether official paperwork or renovations on your apartment, don’t try and get them done in August.

The whole city goes on holiday for the month of August, including office personnel, builders and handypeople. If you need to get any of this done, it’s best to get it done before the holidays or to wait until September.  

Don’t buy drinks from sellers on the beach or in the park

You’ll find many people selling drinks on the city’s beaches and in the main Ciutadella Park. While it can be tempting to buy these, especially when it’s so hot, you need to be aware that these cans of drinks are often stored inside drains or under manhole covers, meaning that they’re not the cleanest.

A few years ago, El País took the mojitos sold by hawkers on the beaches to a local lab. The results came back a few days later to show that they contained high levels of fecal matter and bacteria in them.

Barcelona’s Chinese supermarkets are a great source of ingredients

Although you can now find many more foreign ingredients in local supermarkets than you could just a few years ago, there are still many that you may miss from back home, particularly South East Asian and Indian ingredients.

Barcelona has several excellent Chinese supermarkets, where you can find a range of ingredients, everything from sesame oil and Thai curry paste to Indian spices and affordable peanut butter.

Don’t take valuables out with you to certain areas, particularly at night

Unfortunately, bag snatchings and pickpockets are still commonplace in Barcelona. While the thieves mainly target tourists, foreign residents often find that they are targets too.

The trick is to blend in like a local, look like you know where you’re going and don’t take valuables with you to areas such as the Gothic Quarter, Raval or the Rambla, especially at night. Bag snatchings in El Born have also increased in recent years, so keep your wits about you around there too. 

Find your favourite beach outside of the city

Barcelona’s beaches may have been one of your prime reasons for moving here, but you’ll find that you actually prefer the beaches outside of the city.

Overcrowded, dangerous and a lot dirtier than other beaches in the area, the beaches in Barcelona are unfortunately not all that they’re cracked up to be. You’ll often find that after you’ve been for a swim, your valuables will not still be on the sand where you left them. Head just 15 to 20 minutes outside of the city however and you’ll find the beaches are far nicer and safer.

Find a beach outside of the city centre to go to. Photo: makunin /Pixabay

Try to join several different clubs or groups

Barcelona is a very transient city, meaning that people are moving here and leaving all the time. As a result, you’ll often find that most of the friends you made when first moving here have now moved away and you’ll constantly need to make more. If you join several clubs and groups, you’ll find that making new friends all the time is a lot easier. 

Don’t buy a single transport ticket

It’s never really worth buying a single transport ticket in Barcelona, because you’ll end up spending much more money per journey than you would if you bought the T-Casual (10 journeys) or the monthly T-Usual metro card instead.

You can also buy 10-journey bono tickets for the Rodalies trains, which will also save a lot of money if you’re making regular journeys out of the city. 

Try and avoid shopping at Port del Angel on Saturdays

Port del Angel is Barcelona’s main pedestrianised shopping street. While it’s great and has all the high-street fashion shops you want, it can be a nightmare shopping here on Saturdays.

If you do need to shop on a Saturday, try Rambla Catalunya or one of the shopping malls instead, which won’t be so crowded.

Be prepared for festivals and events

Barcelona holds so many festivals and events that it can be hard to keep up. In normal (non-Covid) years, there is one every other week.

Because of this tickets sell out quickly and there are many fun cultural events that you might miss out on. Keep your calendar up to date, so you know what’s going on, and make sure to book tickets for anything you want to see, well in advance. 

Tipping isn’t necessary at all bars and restaurants

Tipping isn’t all that common in Barcelona, unless perhaps if it’s a particularly nice restaurant or if there’s a large group of you that the waiter has had to look after.

You’ll find that it’s not expected either, except maybe at some of the city’s very touristy restaurants.  

READ ALSO: Why do Catalans have a reputation for being stingy?

Do lots of research before renting an apartment and if it sounds too good to be true, then it is

Unfortunately, there are lots of property scams in Barcelona, so try and do as much research as you can beforehand. Never pay money upfront before you’ve seen the property and received the keys.

Also, be aware that many landlords will not return your deposit at the end of your stay.

Many people get around this by not paying the last month’s rent, but this can also make things difficult for the good landlords who may genuinely need to deduct something for damages, so speak with your estate agency on the best thing to do in this situation.

READ ALSO: What you should know about renting an apartment in Barcelona

Hire a gestor or lawyer to help with immigration and tax issues

You’ll save yourself a lot of time and hassle with immigration and tax issues if you hire a professional to help you in Barcelona, where getting a cita previa (appointment) for official matters can often be difficult, in part because these law firms often bulk book them.

However, there are certain processes that you won’t need an immigration lawyer for such as getting a residency certificate if you’re from an EU country or exchanging your green residency certificate for a TIE if you are British and moved here before the end of 2020.

READ ALSO: BREXIT: How to apply for a TIE residency card in Spain