Article published at The National (Scotland), 9th December 2016
A SCOTTISH MP has said the prosecution of Carme Forcadell, the Speaker of the Catalan Parliament, for allowing a parliamentary debate on independence sets a “dangerous precedent” that could undermine public support for the democratic process.
George Kerevan, the SNP member for East Lothian, and 14 other MPs have signed an Early Day Motion (EDM) at Westminster, urging the Spanish government to reconsider the trial.
If found guilty, Forcadell could face a fine of up to €30,000 (£25,300), suspension from her posts and potentially further legal action.
Kerevan said: “Should Catalonia be independent? That is a question not a statement. Yet the Speaker of the Catalan Parliament, Carme Forcadell, will be put on trial next Friday at the Supreme Court of Catalonia for ‘allowing a parliamentary debate on independence’.
“Whatever your view on the matter, this seems like a clear case of free speech and such a trial would only create ill-feeling in Catalonia.”
Kerevan’s EDM was tabled after he hosted a parliamentary visit by the Delegation of Catalonia to the United Kingdom and Ireland.
It reads: “That this House notes with concern the decision of Catalonia’s High Court to proceed with the prosecution of the Speaker and President of the Catalan Parliament, Carme Forcadell, for allegedly violating Spanish law by allowing a parliamentary debate on altering the Spanish constitution, specifically on holding a referendum on Catalan independence; further notes that if found guilty, Ms Forcadell could be subject to debarment from public office and a personal fine; believes that, regardless of the constitutional legalities involved, to take steps to potentially remove and fine a Speaker for facilitating a debate in an elected chamber is regrettable and sets a dangerous precedent that could undermine public support for the democratic process; voices concern at the exceptional speed at which the case against Ms Forcadell is being pursued; and urges the Spanish government to reconsider the prosecution and to seek a resolution of its disagreements with members of the Catalan Parliament through mutual dialogue.”
Sergi Marcen, head of the Catalan delegation in London, welcomed the EDM and the support it had received.
“Having explained the current economic, social and political situation in Catalonia to the members of the British Parliament, they have immediately reacted in favour and in defence of democracy,” he said.
“For a democrat, it is very difficult to understand that a Speaker of Parliament is being prosecuted because she allowed a debate in Parliament.
“For a member of the British Parliament it is a fact that they cannot understand and that is why we’ve had an overwhelming reaction from one of the most historical Parliaments in the world.”
Albert Royo Mariné, secretary general of the Diplomatic Council of Catalonia (Diplocat) told The National the case was “unbelievable”.
He said: “This is an amazing case, unbelievable in a 21st century democracy. How is it possible that the speaker of the parliament can be prosecuted because she accepted a discussion in the parliament on a very relevant issue for our citizens? Isn’t the parliament the temple of democracy?”
Kerevan has also written to Holyrood’s presiding officer Ken Macintosh, and other politicians seeking their support.
He added: “Ms Forcadell did not use her position as Speaker to advocate a position on Catalan independence. She merely facilitated the democratic process.
“As an elected MP I am pleased to have tabled, alongside 14 other colleagues from three different parties, an Early Day Motion at the House of Commons expressing our concern over this trial and asking the Spanish government, which brought this case to trial, to reconsider.”