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Upsetting the applecart

Why Scots and Catalans should opt for independence

22836789With just 2 weeks to go to the Scottish referendum and one week from the Diada – Catalonia’s national day – the time is ripe to make the case for independence for these two nations trapped in a constitutional set-up neither likes.

Small nations rule

Within a democratic Europe, the example of smaller nations is clear – they are more socially cohesive, more equal, more self-reliant, more innovative and progressive and – paradoxically perhaps in the context of what these referenda represent – less nationalistic. They lack the superiority complex of larger states, especially those with the imperial past of Britain and Spain which appeal to their self-declared past greatness as a reason for maintaining the status quo.

Think of the Scandinavian countries, Ireland or Iceland, the Netherlands, Portugal or Andorra, Luxembourg… countries that are not bellicose but quietly get on with ordering their societies and economies more or less to the satisfaction of their inhabitants. So if two more nations with a distinct cultural identity want to emulate them, should we be surprised?

The economic red herring

The fear factor that is wielded to oppose independence in the debates currently raging is that Scotland or Catalonia would lose out economically in the event of splitting from their parent states. But it is a red herring. It has already been argued widely by analysts – and indisputably to my mind – that both nations would immediately be better off by going it alone because they currently contribute more per capita than they receive. In the longer term, the doom-mongers talk of disinvestment and/or lack of new inward investment. Again, plenty of arguments have been advanced by many who know their subjects well, as to why R&D would continue to thrive in highly educated societies, about Scotland’s shipyards being able to adapt to new circumstances by developing its own naval capability and renewing its substantial ferry services. As for Catalonia, it is ridiculous to suggest that one of the major trade routes between Spain and the rest of Europe – and the Mediterranean – would suddenly be bypassed by some miraculous alternative. And, most importantly of all, as independent countries, they would be able to set their corporation tax rates at a level that would draw in – and retain – corporate investors, just as Ireland has been able to do.

As for the currency arguments against independence, they are only convincing to those who lack understanding of macroeconomics. It isn’t even rational within the existing Spanish and UK states to pretend that a single currency can reflect the economic realities of areas as diverse as Madrid and Albacete, or London and Cornwall and a currency union can only be maintained as things stand now through grants, subsidies and other fiddles (which in turn generate their own fiddles by those who handle the money). Moreover, there is a precedent for an independent nation pegging its currency to the pound and that is the Irish punt which maintained its parity for half a century after the free state was achieved before deciding to go it alone, as Scotland would be able to do at its time of choosing. And if a hotch-potch of countries of all shapes, sizes, levels of competitiveness, economic and industrial development, etc. etc. can operate within the Eurozone, why shouldn’t Catalonia?

It’s a no-brainer!!

So go for it Scots and Catalans – a better future is yours to grasp

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Because you’re worth it

Homage to Catadonia

Generally I hesitate to comment on politics and social issues on the blog22836789 but, having laid my hat over the years both among the Catalans and the Scots and with both nations now in the process of organising a plebiscite on a proposed independent future, for once I am making an exception.

Although their histories and economies differ substantially, there is much that Catalonia and Caledonia have in common. The political union with their larger neighbours, forged in the mists of history among kings and barons, is taken for granted by Madrid and London respectively, surviving by inertia and during certain periods, admittedly, by a common interest. But the times they are a-changing and central government’s off-handed contempt for their junior partners’ aspirations has been creating frustration and building up the head of steam now powering the movement for independence.

Great expectations

Of course, the very notion of challenging the status quo gives offence to those whose patriotic identity harks back to a “great” imperial past and, in the Spanish case, also to the Francoist “España, Una, Grande y Libre.”  But, to my eyes, Catalans and Scots find themselves locked into a State whose backward-looking citizens persist in imposing arrogant right-wing neoliberal central governments on them contrary to their own preferences. Neither the UK Conservatives nor the Spanish Partido Popular have any substantial support among their respective minority nations – with what share of the vote they had diminishing over the years as they decreasingly responded to the aspirations of the junior partners.

The stink of corruption

The Catalan position is aggravated by the corruption pervading Spain and its political classes, surpassed in Europe only by Rumania. That is not to say that corruption does not occur in Catalonia, but it is relatively minor in comparison to the levels experienced elsewhere in the kingdom and particularly among their Valencian cousins to the south. The amount of public funds (largely from the EU) channelled into non-viable infrastructure projects or into the pockets of politically-allied fraudsters is truly staggering adding to the catastrophic effects of the bank rescue needed when the property bubble burst so spectacularly. Catalans rightly complain that they are being forced to pay disproportionately through their taxes and higher road tolls and they want to control their own finances, for better or worse.

Archaic nation states

Both Scots and Catalans have to battle against the unfit-for-purpose state structure defended by the EU élite nations (whatever happened to the Europe of the Regions?) which absurdly threaten exclusion from the club if independence is declared in their anxiety to quash secession by the Basques, Corsicans, Flemish who are also straining at the leash of centralism. There are perfectly good arguments for smaller nations to be self-governing (especially within a unified Europe), such as the prosperity and economic flexibility of those that already have their own state (the Scandinavian countries, the Netherlands etc.) or have the federal structure such as Germany’s which would have addressed Scots and Catalan demands had they been offered.

And of course there are perfectly good reasons why the larger states should not want to lose out from losing chunks of their population, economy and geography (oil particularly in the UK’s case, tourism and transport links to Europe in Spain’s). It might diminish London and Madrid’s weight in international arenas, but no-one seriously proposes that Tesco, for instance, might give up its Scottish market or Corte Inglés/Hipercor its Catalan one if they went their own way, nor that Scotland or Catalonia might set up barriers if they were fully integrated into the EU in their own right. So threats that their economies would plummet irretrievably post-independence are absurd.

Indulge them

But in the final analysis, Catalans and Scots should be allowed to choose their own future, first and foremost because self-determination is a Right. If they make mistakes, it will be their own and not induced by those who do not share – and often show contempt for – their culture and society. And if they have the confidence to do things differently and hopefully better – let them!

 

 

 

 

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La Paradeta: oh the anticipation

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Tennis – the Barcelona Open

Another year, tennis and spring in Barcelona

mydiagonal

Waiting for Godó

It’s not Wimbledon, but the Comte de Godó Cup, part of the ATP Masters World Tour, drawing to a close in Barcelona this weekend with its final on Sunday, provides some first-class tennis entertainment if you’re in the city this time of

Barcelona Open Barcelona Open

year. It is played at the Reial Club de Tennis Barcelona, the oldest tennis club in Spain (founded in 1899) and the cup was instituted 60 years ago this year.

With Rafa Nadal – probably Spain’s most internationally renowned sporting figure outside soccer – ploughing his way back up the ATP rankings on his local turf to pick up his 8th Barcelona title this time round if successful tomorrow, and other top seeded players competing for the title between Monte Carlo and the Grand Slam competitions at Roland Garros and Wimbledon, the yearly event is a great opportunity to catch up on…

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Sant Jordi

Another Sant Jordi….

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Sant Jordi Sant Jordi

When literature and romance meet

Although the Catalans have no national literary figure’s birthday to celebrate on 23rd April they use their patron saint’s day, the Diada de Sant Jordi to display their love of literature, with gifts of books (traditionally from women to men) and of roses in return, in their own intellectual version of Valentine’s day – though nowadays the custom is more gender-blind.

And of course, it is the birthday of two literary greats, Shakespeare and Cervantes, but while in England St George’s Day day is quite low-key, the Catalans, with all their nationalist fervour, dive in with gusto and special street stalls selling books and flowers fill the centre of Barcelona, drawing in the crowds.

Moreover, the tradition grows in strength, with its fame spreading internationally and the fact is, Barcelona continues to celebrate culture exceedingly well in its own special style.

(This picture…

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Tickets, Adrià Brothers Tapas, Eixample

Foodie in Berlin/Barcelona (Old)

Tickets Bar, BarcelonaIn 1997, El Bulli, got it’s 3rd Michelin star. In 2002, it was named restaurant of the year. Back then, lead times to super-restaurant-stardom were still a matter of years, rather than months.  (Check out Alma: Best New Restaurant in America 2013.  Now, no sooner is the accolade laid on then the book comes out, all marinating time has been discarded.  I find the lack of build up unsatisfying, like eating before you are hungry.)

There was plenty of build up with El Bulli.  I watched Cooking in Progress (a film which proved that exciting food to eat is the exact opposite to make) and read Lisa Abend’s Sorcerer’s Apprentices.  But by then El Bulli had already announced its impending closure, dashing my hopes of experiencing a meal there.  But the silver lining is that Tickets opened soon after.  It’s not El Bulli but there are…

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Pillowrooms Botique Hotel Barcelona!

pillowapartments

In the pursuit to launch our latest project, the last few months have been an exciting new journey for most members of our team. Taking every detail at heart, we witnessed the metamorphosis of our young duckling into a beautiful swan, i. e the transformation of a modernistic house of the 1950s into a high quality boutique hotel in the centre of Barcelona. Now we are very proud to present the excellent result that is our Pillowrooms Boutique Hotel.

Located next to Arc de Triumf and the Ciutadella Park, this cozy hotel is a unique mixture of designs in the stylish decoration, modernistic features, art-Deco and vintage furniture, all complemented with high quality equipment for maximum comfort. We invite new guests to discover our favorite details, such as these:

– Mosaic floors of the Catalan tradition; preserved with care and brought back to their original vibrant look.

Boutique Hotel 147

pillowrooms floor

– Antic furniture…

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