A 'DISCUSSION group' about Catalunya set up in Westminster ahead of Scotland's proposed second referendum on independence has annoyed the Spanish embassy in London.
A meeting between an unnamed diplomat representing Spain and the British politicians who started the group – George Kerevan of the Scottish National Party (SNP) and Hywel Williams of Plaid Cymru, or the Welsh National Party – was said to have been 'cordial' but with 'a very clear message': that of staying well off the subject of Spain's north-eastern region.
“It's not up to Spanish diplomats to advise us on our Parliamentary activities,” Williams said to the Catalunya News Agency.
“But it was evident that the Spanish embassy was very much against some of the positions that I defended in the House, particularly those relating to certain motions recently presented.”
These motions included asking Spain's government to 'stop making politics a court issue and persecuting elected representatives', referring to Catalunya's Parliamentary chairwoman Carme Forcadell, who has been threatened with sanctions.
They also included a motion which condemned the 'harsh fines and bans from office' faced by former Catalunya regional president Artur Mas and his colleague, education minister Irene Rigau for their having called a non-binding vote over secession on November 9 last year.
Plaid Cymru and the SNP stressed 'the right of democratically-elected MPs to call referenda'.
“For the Spanish embassy, the whole issue is about legality,” explains Williams.
“The Spanish Constitution does not permit a referendum on independence for Catalunya.
“That said, the Constitution was drawn up in the aftermath of a fascist régime, and that's highly significant – if a Constitution cannot be modified to respond to democratic aspirations of part of its national territory, then it's untenable long term.
“Amending the Constitution could be difficult and probably isn't viable in the short term, however, but Catalunya needs a short-term solution.
“You cannot have millions of people in the street asking for something, and refuse to listen to them.
“Spain needs to officially recognise Catalunya's wishes and approve them.”
Concerning Spain's having filed legal action against Catalunya's regional leaders, the Plaid Cymru MP says he is 'quite surprised' Madrid has 'gone down that route'.
“I cannot imagine anyone in the UK choosing to go to the courts to stop a referendum, and especially one called by a regional government,” Williams admits.
“I don't understand how a State can tell people they're not allowed to talk about certain subjects.
“Spain's government needs to respond in a more creative and positive way to Catalunya's political aspirations.
“And Spain's territorial model needs to change, too, because it seems the current one doesn't work.”