Sunday, July 27, 2008

The eminent British political commentator, Simon Jenkins, predicts the break-up of the British union. If he's right - as he probably is - this can't be good news for Madrid. Though I guess it all depends on whether an 'independent' Scotland secedes or stays as a member of a British federation or confederation - whatever the difference is. As for full secession, I suppose Scotland - like Cataluña, the Basque county and Galicia - would have to get permission from their political masters not only in the capital city but also in Brussels. But the really interesting question is - What happens if the fed-up English demand full secession that the Scots pull back from? In other words, if they get kicked out of the British union by those who've been picking up their bills? So, interesting times. Of course, the interim development is that the British cabinet will pass out of the hands of the Scottish cabal which has been running the UK for the last eleven years. Starting with the hapless Mr Brown, who may well have to fall on his sword quite soon. What rich irony, given that the Scots-dominated New Labour party set the Scots on this road via the decision to devolve powers to a Scottish parliament. The latter really has turned out to be what some saw it as at the time - the thin end of a wedge. Who'd be a politician? Or at least a Scottish one in London.

Being a net beneficiary from the British exchequer, Scotland is - of course - more analogous with Galicia than with either Cataluña or the Basque Country. Both of these would be perfectly happy to keep all the money they make. Indeed, this is what the current imbroglio around regional finance is all about. Solidarity? This is only relevant at the EU level, provided it means Spain remains a net beneficiary. When this stops and the real horse-trading begins, it will become as irrelevant internationally as it now is nationally. The zeitgeist is increasingly local. And if this means the end of unions such as those of Belgium, Britain and Spain, how can it possibly mean the continuation of the EU? Why would any newly self-governing country leap from the frying pan to an even-more-distant fire?

When I was a kid, chicken was so expensive we had it only once a year, at Christmas. Based on my most recent supermarket bill, I predict that very shortly it will be cheaper not only than a bottle of palatable white wine but also a loaf of bread. Bread is now so expensive that, if Omar Khayam were writing today, I guess it would have to be:-
A breast of chicken, a flask of wine, and though beside me in the wilderness.
And wilderness is paradise enough.

Which is a bit trivial of me when I hear on the BBC that the soaring price of grain means not only that domestic animals are starving in Africa but that their owners are reduced to eating the food meant for them. If this is largely due to speculation, then at least the good news is that it won't last for long.

Galicia Facts

The final blues concert in Pontevedra was a great success, though I inevitably suffered the distraction of four local pijas who were really there to chat and to move backwards and forwards from their seats. Of course, when the decibels of an R&B band are high, you really have to shout to make yourself heard by the person next to you. More so for the friend in the row in front. And they certainly did. As frequently happens, I wondered what was going through their musically-uninterested minds. Are they really oblivious to what they're doing? Even when some foreigner like me makes it crystally clear he's not impressed with their cacophony? Does this happen in any other country? Italy? Russia?

Anyway, the concert was in the town's main square, on the corner of which is this eyesore:-

This is, in fact, a premier site for tourists and the building was a café before it closed down 3 or 4 years ago. You can see the top of the beautifully restored Peregrina chapel behind it. So, why has it been left to decay for this long? Especially as its interior houses one of the few remaining bits of the town's medieval walls, where they joined the gate where the gap now is. Can it really be the result of a family feud? And can the council which has done so much to improve the old quarter really do nothing about this monstrosity right at the place where most people enter it? If so, this would be ironic given the new-building construction projects that have clearly been possible over the last 10 to 15 years.

The president of the Galician Nationalist Party [the BNG] inevitably used his National Day address to complain that the Spanish government is using the economic crisis to welch on its commitments to Galicia. Yes, I'm sure this is the number one item on the cabinet's daily meetings. Right, Ministers and Ministresses. How can we screw Galicia today? As if other regions aren't being hit as well.


Mark said...

My suspicion is that the EU (and particularly the common currency) has increased people's temptation to try going for independence. In the past there would always have been the worry that your new local currency would collapse, or fluctuate wildly, which makes it difficult to follow economic plans. Ireland has shown in the last 15 years that despite being a small country they can belong to a more stable currency (ie the Euro) and consequently grow the economy. Which brings its own problems of course. Anyway, although I think that independence for Scotland is bad in many ways, I do feel there's enough talent and resources in Scotland to succeed in the long run. I just wonder if they're prepared for the cold blast of economic reality in the early stages.

45N93W said...

A [very] hypothetical breakup in Spain would [probably] look more like the "model" of the breakup in former Yugoslavia than any in Great Britain. These days the pro-independence Basque and Catalan mantra is "nos vemos en Europa". Let's assume, for a moment, that this is feasible and that the Spanish institutions allow this breakup... What would happen if the EU disappears? The Iberian Peninsula might turn up like former Yugoslavia. IMHO this likely chaos is the main reason Spaniards should oppose any independence move from the Basque Country and Cataluyna: we would be affected. Galicia is a different case. Most Galicians (I´m one of them) see themselves as Spaniards. After all we had an important roll in rebuilding Spain during the 8th century and beyond.


moscow said...

I didn't get any of your e-mail. I use a fake address....err...yes...
The real one is the one you got the comment about PPreston from.

About separatists: personally, I don't see any of it happening any time soon. There is too much at stake. I mean, small independent states are all of them viable, but it will only happen if the EU strengthens further, and nation- states loose more of their powers.
Now that's something to look forward to. The end of the nation-state as we know it. A European invention. It is, therefore, the Europeans' task to put an end to it. Don't forget nation-states were also artificial constructs at the time of their inception. They usually took centuries to rise and develop. It usually involved also quite a bit of blood, iron, and human suffering.

The development of the EU won't take centuries. Nowadays things move forward rather quicker. I think it is inevitable. When you look around, Europe is so small. China will overtake Germany this year and become the world's third largest economy. And there are still many parts of the world where democracy is deemed an unnecessary luxury.

Again, I don't think the time for nationalists has come yet. The kind prevalent in WEU is petty, narrow-minded, vindictive, and pointless. It's the sort thing people indulge in because life is too boring - simply because it's too good.

moscow said...

and here a plausible explanation why cheering for the Spanish squad was not all too loud in the Basque country: