*UPDATE* Cambridge University Professor joins the discussion | In it together or independent?

Dear Burnet News Club Members,

My name is Dominic and I am Professor of Catalan Studies at Cambridge University. I’ve spent many years living in Catalonia and love that country for its culture, language, climate, food and, of course, football! I also admire the bravery of people who stand up for human rights: especially in the difficult circumstances of today or under the dictatorship of General Franco. I’m so glad you invited me to participate in this discussion. Your excellent questions and comments are intelligent and thoughtful. These are qualities that we value at Cambridge University and I would strongly encourage News Club members to come here to continue their studies. I hope my answers help you get to the bottom of a very complicated issue which, like the problem between Britain and Ireland, has lasted for centuries and now needs urgent attention.

Here is an article you might find interesting. 

How did Franco become the government of Spain? 

From: JaydenRavenyuki | Ravenscroft Primary School

It’s a very sad tale I’m afraid, Jayden, but one which you are right to make sure that everyone knows about and does not forget. In 1936 Spain was a Republic That is to say, a democracy like France, Ireland and the United States, where people vote for political parties to form the government of their choice. Unlike the UK, however, a Republic has no King or Queen and the President is the head of state.

General Franco was a very tough military man. Like his ally, Adolf Hitler, he believed that democracy meant weak government, disagreement and chaos. He felt the country should be controlled with a fist of iron; and that people who lived there should not be allowed to take their own decisions but, like soldiers in the army, should simply follow orders. Many of his fellow officers felt the same and decided that they could use the Armed Forces to impose this system (called a dictatorship) where one man rules the whole of the country, telling everybody what to do.

However, a great many people remained loyal to the Republic and its ideals which were based on freedom and equality. They bravely faced down the military coup – the violent attempt by Franco’s army to seize power – and their resistance led to the Civil War between these two sides. After three years of fighting, with dreadful casualties, the haters of democracy won. And there followed nearly forty years of cruelty, repression and abuse of human rights under the dictator.

What is the government of Spain trying to achieve by changing or altering the way Catalonians speak?

From: -JoJoSays- | Michael Faraday School

You have picked up on a very important point here, JoJo. Many people on the ground think that the government of Spain wants to weaken Catalan. For example, in Valencia and the Balearic Islands, politicians of this party insist that the language of their region is not Catalan, which reduces the number of speakers. This is plainly ridiculous, as every university in the world says it is Catalan. Can you imagine politicians telling doctors that smoking is good for your health? Would you believe anyone who told you that the language spoken in Germany was Italian? This is exactly what these politicians are doing with their fake news when they contradict experts in the science of language called linguistics.

But why should they try to belittle Catalan? Why do they attack rather than protect this language as it says they are supposed to do in the Constitution? Why, for example, have they made it impossible to watch Catalan TV in Valencia or even have TV and radio in Catalan there?

It is very difficult to make sense out of this destructive attitude. Some say that these people see Catalan as a rival to Spanish and want to destroy it so that everyone will only speak Spanish and thereby feel Spanish. The Catalan-speakers are very unhappy about this. They love their own culture and language and continue to fight for their right to speak it at all times in their own community, despite the attitude of the party that governs Spain.

"Your excellent questions and comments are intelligent and thoughtful. These are qualities that we value at Cambridge University and I would strongly encourage News Club members to come here to continue their studies."

Dominic Keown, Cambridge University

Would Spain try to force Catalonia to remain and would that result in a civil war?        

From: Ravenclaw Diader | Faringdon Community College

What a very pertinent question, Ravenclaw Diadem! The government in Spain has made it very clear that it would use all force necessary to make sure that Catalonia remains in Spain. They sent over 5,000 police from the rest of the country who, together with the 11,000 state police stationed in Catalonia, were ordered to stop the referendum on independence. The result was the brutality we all saw during the referendum when around a thousand people needed hospital treatment. There is no doubt that any future attempt to gain independence would be treated in the same way. The politicians who organised the referendum, with the support of the majority of voters, are now either in jail, in exile or under criminal investigation.

However, there will be no Civil War. The Catalans have no weapons and no army. More importantly, unlike the Spanish authorities, they completely reject the use of violence. You can see this in many of the demonstrations as, in the face of riot police with their helmets, truncheons and rubber bullets, those protesting put both hands in the air to show they are unarmed, shouting “Som gent de pau!” (We are people of peace)​​​​​​​​​​​​

Is Spain Democratic when they don’t let part of the country vote for what they want?                         

From: Yamwertolo | Boutcher Primary School

You have hit the nail on the head, Yamwertolo; and this is a key question to be answered. For those of us who live in countries with a long tradition of democracy, Spain’s treatment of Catalonia is very difficult to understand. Elsewhere, the issue of a nation’s right to decide about independence has been solved through talks and referendum and, most importantly, without brutality. Good examples of this are Quebec (Canada), Greenland (Denmark) and Scotland (UK).

The Spanish Government, however, insists that this question is not political but legal. It says independence is against the law (it goes against what is written in the Constitution), so it is illegal to hold a vote on it. Those who attempt to do so are criminals and so are put in prison or forced into exile.

Spain’s attitude might be legally accurate. But is it reasonable or democratic? Votes on independence for Quebec and Scotland were, strictly speaking, also against the law. But in these cases a solution was found through flexibility, open-mindedness and discussion rather than through repression. Which, do you think, is the better course of action?

How does Catalonia have so much money? 

From: Cutecupcake | Boutcher Primary School

It’s a great idea to get down to brass tacks, Cutecupcake, as money is at the root of so many problems. For those who like facts and figures, the wealth of Catalonia within Spain can be summed up approximately as follows:  16% of the population provides 19% of the goods and services, 25% of industrial production, 29% of exports. In this way Catalonia creates much more wealth than it consumes. So it is obvious why Spain refuses to let it become independent.

To an extent, Catalonia is like London and the South East. It is the major hub of the country’s economy as well as being a major tourist centre. (Nearly a quarter of all foreign tourists – some 18 million visitors - went there last year.) It was in Catalonia that industry first grew and a modern financial system was established whereas agriculture was dominant in a hugely rural Spain. Just as in London, however, not everybody living there has a lot of money and there is also a significant amount of poverty and deprivation.

51 Comments

  1. Ravenscroft Primary School Ravenscroft Primary School

    Question about Catalonia
    How is it like in Catalonia?

    From JaydenRavenyuki

  2. Ravenscroft Primary School Ravenscroft Primary School

    What is the problem with the EU?

    From JadenRavenyuki

  3. Ravenscroft Primary School Ravenscroft Primary School

    Do you think the EU should do something about the Spain and Catalonia issue?

  4. Ravenscroft Primary School Ravenscroft Primary School

    If so, why?

  5. Ravenscroft Primary School Ravenscroft Primary School

    Why isn’t the EU mediating?[trying to help Spain and Catalonians]

    JaydenRavenyuki

    • I find it disgraceful that the EU is doing nothing when, as international groups who look out for civil rights have declared, there have been clear cases of abuse in Catalonia

  6. Ravenscroft Primary School Ravenscroft Primary School

    Do you think the EU should defend the rights of the Catalonians? PogbaRaven#6

  7. Ravenscroft Primary School Ravenscroft Primary School

    The EU didn’t try to stop Spain from sending the police
    To attack the Catalonians so why aren’t the
    EU helping Catalonia?

  8. Ravenscroft Primary School Ravenscroft Primary School

    Why didn’t the EU stop Spain from sending police to Catalonia?

    If the English and Ireland talked it out why can’t Catalonia and Spain?

    Why isn’t the EU even trying to make Catalonia and Spain talk?

    YamiRaven#123

    • Hi YamiRaven#123, You are so right in my view. Problems should be solved by talking, not by force. This is how Britain and Ireland stopped violence and paved the way for the referendum so that Scotland could decide its future. When negotiation works so well it is hard to understand why politicians don’t sit down and talk.

  9. Ravenscroft Primary School Ravenscroft Primary School

    My Opinion
    Catalonia and Spain Should talk because you shouldn’t do wars because I think since ww1 and ww2 DONE NO MORE WARS because wars are going to kill loads of people that didn’t want a war so what is it taking peoples life or talk this is your decision Spain and Catalonia.

    JaydenRavenyuki Why isn’t the EU mediating?[trying to help Spain and Catalonians]

    JaydenRavenyuki

  10. Ravenscroft Primary School Ravenscroft Primary School

    Why did the Spanish government send the police to attack the Catalonias?

    • Hi Bunny Raven, Attacking innocent people is always serious. The Spanish say they are upholding the law. We must ask ourselves is there is any law worth defending that sends a thousand people to A&E?

  11. Ravenscroft Primary School Ravenscroft Primary School

    Bunny raven

  12. Arbours Primary Academy Arbours Primary Academy

    If Catalonia leaves, could Spain join another community/country?

  13. St Peter's Primary School St Peter's Primary School

    What was one of General Franco’s cruel deeds and were there any good things he did?

  14. Ravenscroft Primary School Ravenscroft Primary School

    Why wouldn’t the Spanish government let them(the Catalan’s)vote? That is truly unfair for the catalan’s

  15. Ravenscroft Primary School Ravenscroft Primary School

    What is your Opinion? About Spain and Catalonia talks except war?

    From JadenRavenyuki

  16. Ravenscroft Primary School Ravenscroft Primary School

    The EU didn’t stop Spain from
    Attacking so why aren’t the EU
    Helping? I think the EU should
    Help them resolve their problems
    Because EU stands for European
    Union because they’re meant to be
    United.
    Anime.Raven#716

    • I couldn’t agree more with you, Anime.Raven#716. The EU is a great disappointment in this respect and is turning a blind eye to its citizens in Catalonia.

  17. Ravenscroft Primary School Ravenscroft Primary School

    Why does Catalonia want to leave, but the Spanish Government does not want Catalonia to leave Spain?

    By: RavenTheDonut

  18. Ravenscroft Primary School Ravenscroft Primary School

    My opinion on the EU mediating with Spain and Catalonia is that they should force/talk to them so they don’t need police into this argument.

    Why isn’t the EU mediating with Spain and Catalonia?

    Why isn’t the EU defending the rights of Catalonia?

    YamiRaven#123

    • These are all good questions, YamiRaven#123. I wrote to my 5 MEPs, asking for an answer. Though the two who answered were very concerned about the situation, they though the EU was doing enough. Would you agree with them?

  19. Ravenscroft Primary School Ravenscroft Primary School

    I think the EU should mediate the Spanish and Catalonian government because the EU is united so if they are united they should unite Spain and Catalonia. What do you think?
    PogbaRaven#6

  20. Ravenscroft Primary School Ravenscroft Primary School

    Why does Spain want to stop Catalonia? And why ?Hi, I’m in Ravenscroft primary school . Many people ask this question : 1. Why does Spanish government doesn’t want Catalonia to leave?
    And why ?
    2.Why does Spain needs someone to control them ?

    By GoldenRaven

    • Hi GoldenRaven, I can understand Spain not wanting Catalonia to leave. Many people in the UK didn’t want Scotland to leave; and also Catalonia provides a lot of wealth for Spain. But the problem should be resolved by negotiation and referendum, not by violence.

  21. Ravenscroft Primary School Ravenscroft Primary School

    Why hasn’t the European Union try to stop the actions of the police who were beating the Catalonians? Because they’re ‘united’, the countries of the EU should try to mediate with Spain and Catalonia so that they stay united.

    -iiMythicalRavenX

  22. St Peter's Primary School St Peter's Primary School

    i will redo the question.
    ApplesAndPears10

  23. St Peter's Primary School St Peter's Primary School

    What were some of General Franco’s cruel deeds and why did he do it?
    ApplesAndPears10

  24. Elaine Primary Academy Elaine Primary Academy

    Would you like Catalonia to leave Spain and what do think what will happen?

    #Priceless Bunnie

    • Hi #Priceless Bunnie, I am not bothered whether Catalonia leaves Spain or not. I was not bothered if Scotland left the UK or if Britain left the EU. This is because I think we all have our own opinion and the best way to test this is through a referendum.

  25. St Peter's Primary School St Peter's Primary School

    Why does Catalonia sue Carles Puigdemont when they know that he benefited them?
    AgentKitty

    • Hi AgentKitty, I think it is Spain who want to arrest Puigdemont, not Catalonia. This is hard to understand when he was chosen as president by the majority of voters in the elections of December, 2017, which were organised precisely by the Spanish government. Do you think this is democratic?

  26. Boutcher Primary School Boutcher Primary School

    Why doesn’t Catalonia have another vote, but this time see if more people vote and this could come with a better result now people know?
    Wolf

    • Yes, Wolf, this is precisely what the Catalan government wants: a full and fair vore. The Spanish government refuses to allow this. They will also put any one in prison who tries to bring this about.

  27. Faringdon Community College Faringdon Community College

    What is your stance on the Catalonia-Spain split from a financial perspective? If the rumors are true and Catalonia ends up declaring Independence, the entire nation could face an economy crash, due to expenses for basic things a country needs and the lack of money coming from the Spanish Government. 20% of Spain’s GDP comes from Catalonia, so a split could also have consequences for there too. Not a good start to a newly-founded country.

    Opinions?

    -aesthetichouseplant

    • A great post,aesthetichouseplant. Economic arguments are always really important when deciding the future. Catalonia would actually be better off economically. According to last year’s figures, each Catalan pays 1,300 euros per year to the rest of Spain. As we saw with Brexit, however, there are also other thing which are important; and you need to take great care when taking such decisions

  28. St Gregory's Catholic Primary School St Gregory's Catholic Primary School

    Why is it important to defend traditions as new ones will very shortly take their place?
    Loyalwolf

  29. Chiltern Way Academy Chiltern Way Academy

    I think that every one should be together because it makes the world a better place and no more loneliness

    LF

  30. Elaine Primary Academy Elaine Primary Academy

    What impact would it have on Catalonia when/if they leave Spain?

    LoopyLama

  31. If there was to be a war between Catalonia and Spain, would Catalonia have other nations help defend itself?
    OriginallyCurious

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