Few men can say they have entered the Catalan government headquarters in Barcelona wearing a kilt and even fewer have a graphic proof of it next to the Catalan president. Chris Bambery does. A Scottish independentist, Bambery has been following the Catalan process for many years. Left activist, writer, journalist and TV presenter, Bambery was one of the drivers of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Catalonia (APPG) at Westminster, created in March 2017 when Bambery worked as assistant to SNP deputy George Kerevan. Now Bambery is the secretary of the APPG. Along with Kerevan, he published the book “Catalonia Reborn” in March 2018.
– Several weeks ago, you visited some of the Catalan political prisoners. What were your impressions?
– Yes, we visited Jordi Cuixart and former Catalan Parliament Speaker Carme Forcadell. Jordi’s partner, Txell Bonet, had come to Westminster to address MPs and Peers about the situation of the prisoners and about the experience of herself and her infant son, that had a powerful effect. Carme Forcadell had visited Westminster last July, meeting Parliamentarians but also the Speaker of the House of Commons, who greeted her from the Chair when Parliament began proceedings with Carme in the public gallery. Aside from the common charges of rebellion and sedition, she is also being prosecuted for allowing a debate on independence, something requested by a majority of MPs.
– How was their mood?
– Jordi is clearly relishing the fight and is looking forward not just to the trial but as to how the campaign in support of the prisoners can help create the Catalan Republic. He knows he will go to jail but accepts his fate. He is a truly wonderful man. Carme is on her own and finds life in jail more difficult.
– The trial is about to start. Do you think it will be a fair one?
– No. The Court includes so many politically appointed judges, supporters of the Popular Party. The atmosphere in Spain is one of growing Castilian nationalism, as we have seen in the Andalusian elections, with the PP, Ciudadanos and now the fascists competing as to who is the most hardest against Catalonia. The socialist government of Pedro Sanchez could have intervened to stop the persecution but they are in reality the soft cop to the hard cops of the PP and Ciudadanos. After the results in Andalusia they will be scared to be seen as too soft.
How important is international support in the Catalan process?
– I think it is crucial. I felt it was necessary to bring them not just my support but to tell them there is growing support across Britain. That’s particularly true in Scotland and Wales but things are shifting in England too, as people discover the reality of Spain’s flawed democracy and the lack of independence of the judiciary.
– Will you follow the trial closely?
– Of course. The All Party Parliamentary Group on Catalonia will be organising further visits and ensuring British Parliamentarians attend the trial as international observers.
– Do you expect any reaction from the EU or any European government if they are sentenced to jail?
– The EU will do and say nothing. Spain is too big and important but also the transition from the dictatorship to democracy is seen as a great EU success story, they do not want to hear that so much of the Franco state and elite remains in place. However, I sense that aside from the Scottish and Flemish governments, there is growing unease among many of the smaller nations over this silence. The EU has not treated small nation’s well, witness Greece. At some point we need to create a debate on how we can create a Europe where small nations receive respect and are treated as equals.
– You went to Brussels at the end of November as secretary of the APPG on Catalonia, where several parliamentary friendship groups gathered and decided to cooperate. What can we expect from it?
– The launch of a European wide co-ordination was very important. We now need to work on getting support from German, French and Italian parliamentarians. We are not asking them to support independence but to stand up for human rights and democracy.
– At some point you have denounced interferences from Spain and FA minister Borrell…
– Any attempt to interfere in Parliamentary proceedings at Westminster would be a very serious matter. We are very glad that no British politician would succumb to such attempts. We are concerned over the silence of not just the Theresa May government to events in Catalonia but also from the Leader of the Opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, who has such a fine record of defending human rights and supporting self-determination in Kurdistan and Ireland.
– Do you get any inputs from readers about your book Catalonia Reborn?
– Plenty! We are still doing events and the comments from Catalonia mean we have many friends there. As yet we have had no chance to do book launches there but with the second edition coming out maybe that will change!
– Anything else you want to add?
– As a Scot I see our destinies as intertwined. Whichever one gets independence first, the other will rapidly follow. We are walking together in common destiny.