Dominic Keown (Letters, 12 October) compares Catalonia today to Ireland in 1916. This is beyond hyperbole. Ireland under British rule was a colonial society, impoverished and exploited, a Catholic country governed by Protestants. Catalonia, by way of comparison, is wealthy and largely self-governing with a Catalan-speaking political and business elite and schooling conducted entirely in Catalan. Far from being oppressed, Catalan separatists are making a selfish bid to keep more tax revenues at home, starving Spain’s poorer regions of investment.
Unlike Ireland’s struggle for independence, Catalan nationalism has always had a helping hand from the highest echelons of government. This should be no secret to Professor Keown, who recently spoke at a widely publicised forum at CIDOB, a Barcelona thinktank whose president, Carles Gasòliba, resigned in 2016 citing pressures from the Generalitat to act as a mouthpiece for the separatist movement. Sergio Bacallado de Lara Cambridge
• The EU has not recognised or supported the democratic wishes of Catalans for independence. Indeed, it has refused to condemn the hideous scenes of Madrid police closing polling stations and battering voters. What a contrast to the recognition of the Kosovo referendum and the independence of a state built on terrorism and the ethnic cleansing of Serbs but which had full support from the EU. Catalonia was a bastion against fascism in the 1930s while Kosovo was a haven of fascism on the 1940s. That might explain it. Rodney Atkinson Stocksfield, Northumberland
• Most of the world has seen shocking pictures of Guardia Civil and Policía Nacional violence on peaceful civilians in Catalonia. Most of Spain has not, and certainly not on mainstream TV. The media problem is not some imagined Catalan cocoon (there have been countless real debates with all views freely expressed on Catalan TV, none on Spanish TV. And 80% of TV viewing in Catalonia is of Spanish-language Spanish channels), the problem is that Spanish media has misrepresented Catalonia and Catalan issues for years, thus ensuring that most Spanish people haven’t a clue what’s going on in Catalonia and much less why. Francis Humble Sitges, Catalonia
You uncritically adopt the claim that a “silent majority” of Catalans oppose independence (Puigdemont speech gives no clarity on Catalan independence, 11 October). The figures do not support this. In most opinion polls held prior to recent events, both proponents and opponents of independence formed a minority, with the difference being made up by those who did not know.
During the last regional elections, only 39% voted for explicitly unionist parties, 47% voted for pro-independence parties, while 13% voted for parties who were equivocal on independence. It is correct that the official turnout in the referendum of 1 October was below 50%, but that fails to take into account the closure of polling stations and confiscation of votes by the police. In fact, the number of votes in favour that were counted would have been enough to secure a majority at the record-high turnout level of the last regional election. On 8 October, hundreds of thousands of people protested in Barcelona against independence. A show of strength, yes, but no majority, and somewhat undercut by the fact that some of the attendants had come from outside Catalonia.
The reality is that we can’t know what Catalans want until a legally binding referendum is held. As the Scottish independence and Brexit referendums have shown, opinion polls can be wrong and people will change sides – in both directions – due to the dynamics of a real election campaign. The strategy of the Spanish government seems to be above all to obstruct such a real test of opinions, and my worry is that your newspaper is falling for this. Oliver Urs Lenz Ghent, Belgium
• Let’s stop reducing complex problems like the constitutional status of Catalonia, or our own relationship with the EU, to a blunt choice of just two supposedly mutually exclusive opposites. We could start by reading the works of Ramón Llull, the Majorcan who, 700 years ago, suggested a better voting procedure would be multi-optional and preferential. Let us further remember that the EU has made some terrible mistakes, as for example when the Badinter commission insisted on a plebiscite in Bosnia, or when in Kiev it promoted majority rule up until the very day Viktor Yanukovych fled into exile. In fact, of course, “all the wars in the former Yugoslavia started with a referendum” (Oslobodjenje, 7 February 1999), and the same is now true of the conflict in Ukraine. Peter Emerson Director, the de Borda Institute
• Giles Tremlett reveals that in the Catalonia v Spain impasse: “At stake are five centuries of coexistence with the rest of Spain.” Indeed: not dissimilar to the centuries of coexistence between Ireland and England that inspired the Easter Rising of 1916. Dominic Keown Cambridge
• Simon Doubleday rightly criticises the Francoist ideal of unity (Opinion, 10 October). This holds that no region of Spain should have the right to separate under any circumstances. But he goes on to propose a two-thirds “super-majority” for Catalan independence in any future constitutional referendum, which effectively rules out independence. Imagine requiring this absurd margin for Scottish independence.
A simple majority of votes cast was an appropriate criterion for the Scottish referendum. As it was, despite my pro-remain view, for Brexit too, because Brits do not have the same redistributive obligations to poorer European countries as to poorer parts of Britain. Catalonia is morally different because it is the richest part of Spain after Madrid and the Basque country. So the bar might be raised to, say, 55% to deter other rich European regions such as northern Italy from separating. Joseph Palley Richmond upon Thames, Surrey
• The essence of the Catalans’ claim is the so-called “right to self-determination”, which is “the right of peoples to determine their own political status and to be free of alien domination, including formation of their own independent state”. Ironically, on 24 March 1999, a Spanish aircraft from the Nato alliance was among the first Nato planes to bomb Belgrade for denying the right to self-determination to the Albanian Kosovans. The action was also supported by the Catalans. But it came to haunt them both: the Spanish government for enthusiastically supporting the Kosovans’ claim, and the Catalans for naively believing that they would be rewarded for their staunch support.
The only constant and unfortunate feature that emerges from those episodes is that the application of the “right” is dependent, not even on politics but on ideology; that the “right” can only be exercised by units that live in the countries that are deemed “undemocratic” or enemies of the west. This is also an inevitable conclusion from the UK foreign secretary’s statement that the Catalan referendum was “illegal” because Spain is a close ally and a good friend. This echoed Margaritis Schinas of the European commission, who, asked to explain the difference between the Kosovo and Catalonia episodes, said: “Comparisons between Spain and Serbia could not be drawn because Spain is a member state.”
Dear Catalans: you will have to give up on your claim because you live in a democracy! In fact, if I am allowed to predict, it seems that the Catalans will settle with a financial deal in this episode in the same way as the Basque people managed in 2011. Dr Miroslav Baros Sheffield Hallam University
• The Guardian appears to have moved to using a barely qualified description of the illegal Catalan referendum as one “in which 90% of participants voted in favour of splitting”, without the reminder that over half of possible voters boycotted the vote (Catalan government suspends declaration of independence, 11 October). If a short form is needed then “in which 55% of Catalans showed that they did not want a referendum, never mind independence” would be more accurate, providing a much better reflection of the state of opinion in Catalonia. It is time the Guardian reconsidered its automatic support for any group that disturbs the peace on supposed national or ethnic grounds. John Hall Bristol
• “I am still going to declare independence from Spain, but I am giving them some time, a window.” With these words, Catalan president Carles Puigdemont betrayed the hopes of his brave people’s dream of independence from Spain – because the people of Catalonia did not brave the clubs and gas of the Spanish police in order to vote for a “window”.
Puigdemont’s cowardice has not appeased the Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, who has refused to acknowledge the prospect of an independent Catalonia and has shown the brutal methods he is prepared to use to preserve the Spanish state. Puigdemont simply does not have the luxury of “some time”. He must declare full independence while he can. He should recall the warning of Louis Antoine de Saint-Just: “Those who make revolutions halfway only dig their own graves.” Sasha Simic London
John Rigby (Letters, 3 August) challenges the view that the EU and its predecessors have been responsible for maintaining peace in Europe since 1945. Of course, that proposition cannot be proved. But it is true that one of the primary motivations of the founders was precisely that, as a reaction to centuries of conflict with ever varying combinations of allies and enemies, culminating in the two world wars. Compare the aftermath of the first world war – “the war to end all wars” – and consider how differently that might have developed had something similar to the EU been created post-1918.
Mr Rigby cites the slaughter in the Balkans in the 1990s in support of his argument. I would suggest quite the contrary. Former Yugoslavia was not a member of the EU. Had it been, no doubt the tensions between the different groups would still have existed, but there would have been a much greater incentive to resolve them peacefully, like the relatively amicable split-up of Czechoslovakia. Frank Jackson Harlow, Essex
• Jeremy Paul Dixon (Letters, 3 August) is incorrect when he states that the second world war “ended the west-European dictatorships”. Franco continued in power in Spain until his death in 1975; Salazar’s Estado Novo ruled in Portugal until 1974; Greece was ruled by a military junta between 1967 and 1974. By joining the EU all three countries made a commitment not to return to authoritarian rule. Harry Eyres London