In September 2012, while Scotland and England were preparing to sign the Edinburgh Agreement, the Catalan independence movement forced the Catalan Government to take radical steps towards independence.
Yes, it’s like comparing apples and pears when looking at Scottish and Catalan independence, and of course there are many, many differences.
However, the purpose of this short piece, is not to compare one with the other, but to tell the story of how the Catalan movement took the decisive step in 2012 to push for independence.
They organised, they pressurised, they coalesced: they moved. They did not sit and watch their elected leaders do nothing.
There can be no more pertinent story for the YES movement in Scotland to hear.
Catalonia and Scotland’s independence movements were re born in 2012
In June 2012, Catalan independentistas, welcomed the first ever poll that gave Catalan independence a lead, all be it a small one, with 51.5% responding, that they were in favour of Catalan independence.
The mood of the country seemed to have switched and after the massive and unprecedented La Diada celebrations on the 11th September, the demand became tangible.
A poll, simply numbers on a pie chart. It is numbers on the street that really matter. Evidence backed up, in colour.
Over 1.5 million people marched in Barcelona to demand that the Catalan President Artur Mas listen to the movement.
The messages were clear: head to Madrid and demand concessions for Catalonia or lose office. Independence is bigger than you and your party.
The last seven incredibly rocky years for the Catalan independence movement started that 11th of September.
One month later Scotland and England would sign The Edinburgh Agreement.
This was no simple coincidence: both movements paid close attention to the machinations that were taking place in the UK and Spain that year and the Catalans demanded what had been offered to Scotland.
And so it has continued. Over those seven years, Scotland and Catalonia, have looked at each others journeys. During the ebbs and flows it is easy to reflect on specific moments and wonder……
Would the Edinburgh agreement ever have been signed if David Cameron had woken up one Summer morning, to find a poll putting YES ahead?
Would Catalonia be independent, if Spain had allowed a similar referendum in 2014?
But back to 2012
That year the Catalan independence movement faced off against a conservative leader of a political party immersed in the establishment.
Of course many will see the similarity with Scotland in 2019. How does the YES movement persuade a conservative leader of a political party immersed in the establishment to make a radical move?
To many independence supporters in Scotland a radical move (or any move) in the next two years by Nicola Sturgeon seems impossible.
The SNP’s “waiting game” appears to be an unshakable political position.
So what have we to learn from Catalonia?
A movement moves, it doesn’t wait
Such was the display of strength by the Catalan independence movement, that on the day after the La Diada, the Catalan President, for the first time, came out in favour of independence. It was a seismic shift in Spanish politics.
It was an amazing slight of foot for a politician.
Almost overnight he changed his mind, or more precisely, he had his mind changed by 1.5 million people.
President Mas, from respected establishment politician, to radical, Artur, man of the people, ready to head to Madrid and demand concessions for Catalonia.
A conservative and a Conservative political beast, plotting a radical course towards independence. It shock all of Spain.
It took this radical, brave and daring transformation of a political leader to supercharge the demand for Catalan independence. But the spark came from the two professional, civil, non political, organisations that supported independence.
Oh, to have only one of those organisations in Scotland!
What does this Catalan story tells us?
Well, maybe it is that anything can happen. Maybe it’s that one poll can make all the difference. Maybe it is that one march or demonstration can matter.
However, I believe there is one definitive and definite lesson for Scottish independence:
A movement has to move, and it can not continue to be led by a conservative leader of a conservative political party.
The YES movement should not wait for politicians.
The YES movement should not be led by politicians.
The YES movement is bigger than any politician or any political party.
A movement has to move, and it is time to move.