Yesterday Catalans went to the polls. They want the right to settle their own governing arrangements. The Spanish government refuses to let them. Apparently the Spanish government intends to ignore the wishes of Catalans expressed in their vote.
Yesterday the Kiev government exchanged shell fire with rebels in Donetsk. The two sides in Ukraine cannot bring themselves to try words and votes instead of violence. The rebels do not accept the way they are governed from the centre, and the government will not try to find peaceful ways to reassure and win over the rebels. Above all it will not offer them a peaceful route to more independence or self government.
The UK has shown the world how these matters of identity and belonging should be settled – by passionate argument and by votes. The Scottish vote shows how a nationalist movement can be listened to. It is no good pretending these nationalist movements do not exist. It is better to try to find ways of peaceful persuasion so a majority wants to stay in the union, or to find a way for peaceful change to the relationship where the impulse to more self government or complete independence is strong.
Why can’t other parts of Europe give them a try? I do not like living in a Europe where one advanced country refuses to listen to the views of 20% of its electors who do not like the current arrangements. I dislike even more seeing in Europe a country torn by civil war where rebels arm and attack the state, the state arms and attacks the rebels with no political process to try to deal with the differences. It is an indictment of the EU that it apparently sees nothing wrong with what the Spanish and Ukrainian governments are doing.