Flying the Flag… for what, exactly?


I’m always a bit wary about getting involved in the politics of another country. In truth, I’m pretty wary about getting involved in the politics of my own country these days given the online echo chambers if you agree with someone or the vitriol and shouting-down if you don’t. Family across the road from us have no such qualms however. So much so they bypass the online and visibly nail their colours to the mast. The other week this translated as digging out their trusty Saltire flag and flying it from the battlements of their suburban semi-detached. I guess this action was in solidarity with their Catalan brethren, given that the flag-waving coincided with the day of the independence referendum held in Catalonia. Which made me think – I wonder if they know anyone from that part of the world? I do – and by chance my friend from Barcelona was staying with us when it was all kicking off in her home city. Actually it wasn’t complete chance – she was keen to get a break from the disruption, the ill feeling and the pressure to ‘choose a side’.

Sounds familiar? Yes, we experienced all of that three years ago in Scotland. That’s where the similarity ends though. The Spanish government is ridiculously heavy handed and show a scary lack of evolution from the days of Franco. To think the two situations are similar is like comparing the relationship between Cathy and Heathcliff with that of Terry and June!

Of course the staggeringly huge difference between Scotland/UK and Catalonia/Spain is the historical timeline. The Franco regime came to an end just over forty years ago and – as recent events prove – his influence lives on. If you want oppression, subjugation and bloody battles over here you have to dig out the history books or download Braveheart.

So as the Catalonia/Spain situation rumbles on we can probably expect the old Saltire to make a few more appearances across the road. I’ll be polite though and smile to myself as I’m reminded of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie when poor wee Mary McGregor (Joyce Emily in the book) goes off to join the Spanish Civil War but is confused about what side she should be fighting on. Of course she didn’t have the benefit of a world of knowledge and historical fact at her fingertips; and the only brainwashing came in the form of one silly and deluded woman. Muriel Spark making the point that politics – especially those of another country – are complicated but a bit of flag waving can cover up a fair bit of ignorance.


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