Richt o sel-law as fundamental richt for democracy: The case o hauf-free decísions anent Catalonie

A feck o democratic Catalan politícians haes polítical captions agin them. The Spainish government is forfendin yet again the process o the Catalan pairlament. In October, it wis acause o the wanthirldom referendum. An nou it’s the jylin o politícians for polítical causes. They are socht for ‘rebellion’ an ‘embezzlement’. The definítion o ‘rebeliòn’ in the Spainish constitution actually haes specífically adae wi bangstrie, something that Puidgemont, Ponsati or ither Catalan independentists haes niver promuived. An the referendum wis for the public guid, sae it cannae be embezzlement.

A ‘mids’ postur o mair autonomy for Catalonie, as propone’t by Claus Hecking in Der Spiegel, juist isnae tenable ony mair: the Catalan population haes awready votit on the question o mair autonomy an it wis approbate by thereabout aichty per cent o the population, but than pairtly annult by the Spainish Heich Court.

Gif the Spainish government wants tae be raisonable an trulins be a democratic state, it anerly haes ae option: exeem the polítical prísoners an pit in place a wanthirldom referendum.

Jakob Augstein, in the Spiegel itsel, is richt whan he says Germany sudnae haund Puidgement ower tae the Spainish government. He’s forby richt whan he says that Puidgemont’s bein liftit is a shame for Spainie, Europe an Germany. For kintras that pride theirsels on bein democratic, they cannae pit fowk in jyle juist for organisin a vote that wis pairt o the polítical programme that buir the gree.

This is hou it is richt tae raise the question o whit we expect o a state. Dae we expect that a state wad oppone democracy? Och naw! We sud expect an demand o governments that they are free, an become free-er. They say they are democracies. We can assume that, but they sud pruive that they are, by applýin democratic principles. An there is room for chynge in the Spainish estaiblishment.

Acause freedom isnae juist gien an than it’s there for aye acause it wis gien tae ye. Freedoms an richts is like muscles: they mouter awa gif ye dinnae uise them.

The fact that fowk stoups Ponsati wis shawn in the wey she pit thegither mair nor twa hunner thousand pund in legal upkeep in juist a few days.

Kevin McKenna is richt an aw tae say that we sud say that the Spainish state haes commit authoritarian actions, raither than bein authoritarian. Acause pairt o that expectation is the expectation that fowk can chynge, that things can impruive. Obviously, it isnae inevitable. But we sud certainly evite the cynical attitude o “things is keech” acause the anerly wey for things tae git ony better is for fowk tae imaigine the forrit an ayont an mak steps taewart that futur.

It’s the same wi individuals: gif we want fowk tae impruive, we can juist say “ye’re a dunnerheid” an lea’ it at that. Aw ye daen there is create unfríendship. It’s a fair feck better tae say “this thing is wrang; here’s hou it can be better.”

A richt free state is ane whaur ye can say whit ye want ’ithout ony bather fae the government. A free state is ane whaur ye can chuise yer leaders, an they implement the programme ye votit for. Or in even free-er societies, ye dinnae need the middle man; ye juist vote or decide on the policies straucht-like.

An a richt free state is ane that uphauds the richt tae sel-determination; ane whaur a fowk can decide its ain futur. It’s the fowk that needs tae be in the heft. An that includes fowks that disnae yet hae their ain kintra.1 2 An that includes the richt tae lea’ the kintra they are awready in acause ense it’s like ye’re jyle’t ’ithin the state, a Hotel California version o democracy. Ye can gie somebody aw the polítical richts ye want (an ye sud) as pairt o anither unit. Ye can dae the same for cívil richts an aw. But ’ithout the richt sel-determination, they’re still boxt in.

An democracy is about the laws in place representin the will o the demos, the fowk. Gif ye dinnae hae a demos, ye cannae hae a democracy. An, gif the identity o the people concernt by the polítical entity disnae correspond wi the polítical entity in question, the polítical entity is lackin in its democratic capacity tae represent a demos. Sae, for tae hae a fou democracy, whit recks is creatin a polítical entity that by lattin the fowk that isnae pairt o the demos form their ain state, gif that is whit they want.

This richt sud be applíed equal-aqual an richt-like tae aw fowks in the warld. But, for the maument, the anerly kintras that is sonsie in their quest for freedom is kintras that haes support fae muckle pouers. Nou, consíderin the feck o the muckle pouers is democracies, they sud be uphaudin aw ettles at wanthirldom.3

The richt tae sel-determination is estaiblisht as a principle o law applicable tae aw fowks at the Unitit Nations. The oríginal definítion o fowk is that fowks is ony group occupýin a sindry aurie.

This richt is contrastit wi the concep o ‘territorial integrity’. This concep applíes anerly in case o democracies that grant richts tae aw their cítizens.4

We can argie that, in the ensaumple o Catalonie, the Spainish government haes gien unequal representation tae the different autonomist communities acause it haes lat Andalucía guide policy auries that it wadnae allou tae Catalonie.

An, by ma wey o it, the richt wey tae balance the twa richts wad be tae uphaud anerly agin threits fae outwi’ the state mairches. That wey, it wad gie fou richts tae sel-law ‘ithout lattin the feckfu kintras mismaggle the affairs o the ither kintras.

In Statehood and the Law of Self-Determination, it is statit that the criteria for the formation o a state, an the criteria for the onhaudin o a state isnae the same: the onhaudin o a state is assumed, whaur the formation is needin tae fulfil specífic criteria.5 This creates inertia whaurby the sítuation steys lang the same whan it could chynge for tae create a jonicker sítuation, mair representative o the wills o the fowks o the warld. It can forby create víolent sítuations o war that wad hinderly be wannecessar gif states wad juist recognise the wills o the fowks tae stert wi.

Sae we can see that Catalonia is unner a government that committit actions that wisnae richt in fauvours o freedom. A say this acause the Spainish government hisnae yet lea’d the Catalans git the government they votit on an they hinnae lea’d the Catalans vote theirsels out o Spainie an intae a new Catalonia.

An that this isnae whit we sud expect tae see, consíderin Spainie is a democracy, even gif it isnae a republic. This is a fundamental pairt o a wirkin democracy: tae lea’ fowk the richt tae sae we’ll dae wir ain thing wirsels.

An this richt sud applý tae aw fowks the warld ower, even in kintras that is itherwise free. An there is mony ensaumples o kintras; we hivnae even leukit at the case o Kurdistan, the Iraq-rung pairt o whilk votit for its ain wanthirldom wi a clear majority an a muckle participation rate. Acause the ultimate richt is tae sae “we’ll decide things by wirsels.”

An like for ony ither richt, we sud haud them tae account. Whither it’s protestin, votin, petítions, be clear on whit kin o society ye want tae be lívin in, an fecht for it.


James McDonaldJames McDonald is a Scots polyglot steyin in Réunion. He is keen on different leids, inspecially local leids, an their forderin, whether it’s Scots, Gaelic, Réunion Creole or ither leids. He wirks in schuils, helpin bairns wi their hamewirk an giein chess lessons. Ye can contact him on jmcd89 [AT] googlemail [DOT] com.

Social media ímage: Català: La manifestació Diada del Sí es va celebrar l’11 de setembre de 2017 a Barcelona by medel. License: CC BY-SA 4.0

Glossar

For tips on readin Scots, alang wi a glossar o common wirds, see our cutty guide (written in English).

Scots English
adae wi to do with
Andalucía autonomous community in southern Spain
approbate approved
auries areas
bangstrie violence to a person or property
buirt the gree won first place (in the election)
captions arrest warrants
daen done
dunnerheid idiot, simpleton
ense else, otherwise
equal-aqual in equal shares, equally
ettles ambitions, desires
evite avoid, shun
exeem free
feckfu powerful
forfendin preventing, forbidding
forrit an ayont the way ahead
fowks peoples
hinderly eventually
jonicker honest, fair, just
keech shit, awful
liftit arrested
mairches borders
mismaggle interfere with
mouter decay slowly
onhaudin continuation
oppone oppose
promuive support, foster, promote
propone’t proposed
sel-law self-government
sindry distinct
sonsie successful
stoups supports
tae be in the heft to have complete control (of a situation), to have the whip hand
trulins truly, indeed
uphaudin supporting
wannecessar unnecessary
wanthirldom independence
whit recks? what does it matter?
  1. Ulrike Barten, Minorities, Minority Rights and Internal Self-Determination (Springer, 2014)
  2. Jane A. Hofbauer, Sovereignty in the Exercise of the Right to Self-Determination (BRILL, 2016)
  3. Milena Sterio, The Right to Self-determination Under International Law: “Selfistans”, Secession and the Rule of the Great Powers (Routledge, 2013)
  4. Hilly Moodrick-Even Khen, National Identities and the Right to Self-Determination of Peoples: “Civic -Nationalism -Plus” in Israel and Other Multinational States (BRILL, 2016)
  5. D. Raič, Statehood and the Law of Self-Determination (Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 2002)