DEAR Vice President Junqueras,

I am writing to you from Scotland – as a member of the SNP Youth and a committed activist for the independence of both Scotland and Catalunya – with a message of solidarity.

During the Scottish independence referendum, I was first exposed to the Catalan cause for independence when I saw estelladas flying alongside the Scottish saltires in George Square, Glasgow. Some were flown by Catalans who called Scotland their home and others by those who had made the trip to Scotland in the final days of the campaign to stand in solidarity with us in our shared endeavour. Just two months later, two friends and I travelled to Barcelona to provide the same solidarity in Catalunya’s November 2014 independence poll. From the day I landed, I fell in love with Catalunya — its culture, its politics, its cities and countrysides, but most of all, its people.

For the past two years, I served as the SNP Youth’s vice-convener and, over that time, one of my guiding aims has been to forge links with Catalunya and other like-minded, left-wing independence movements across Europe. The youth wing of your party, JERC, has offered us camaraderie and kindness, inviting us to the Catalan countries on a number of delegations. We had the opportunity to invite many JERC members to Glasgow in January this year and I have only recently returned home from Menorca where JERC hosted a workshop on environmentalism. I have also had the privilege of meeting you personally at Acampada Jove in 2016.

These delegations bring together people from across Europe from different parties, different cultures, and different identities, but all with the common purpose of the people’s emancipation from global capitalism and for self-determination. After every delegation, I always feel more determined and committed in continuing the fight for these beliefs. It is often the case with independence movements that we are portrayed as being isolated and it can often feel like it, not because of our ideology, but because global and national actors seek to divide us, make us seem irrelevant and to fabricate a narrative where we are the petty agitators rather than upholders of our peoples’ sovereignty.

But our movement is not that of isolation – it is one that is profoundly international and of the masses. From Scotland during the 1936 Spanish Civil War, a number of people — mostly socialists, communists and anarchists — travelled to fight the fascism which is rearing its head again today. Many came from the coal towns of Lanarkshire where I am from, as well as from Glasgow’s industrial east end where I currently live. They travelled to stand in solidarity. As fascism and populism rises across the Western world, it is more important now than ever that our solidarity and beliefs are reinforced. After all it is fascism that is the truly isolationist and narrow ideology that seeks to divide and condemn in equal measure.

After personally organising a delegation, I was among the large number of people who travelled to Barcelona days before the Catalan referendum this year to join the people who stood up to authoritarianism and championed their right to self-determination, in defending polling stations. We were honoured to defend our friend’s vote – Oriol Roig Vilaseca, a member of JERC living in Glasgow – which was counted with the millions of others who turned out.

We were well aware of the potential for state violence and that we could face the jackboots and batons of the Guardia Civil, but we knew that we had to be principled and that what was at stake was too important for us not to stand with the people of Catalunya. During this, we were joined by delegations from other countries and parties – a truly international show of solidarity demonstrating that no matter how isolating officials in Madrid and Brussels may be, Catalunya has comrades prepared to stand with her from across Europe.

I was impressed by the restraint and dignity with which the Catalan people acted on that day. The Catalan Government too acted with the sovereignty its people expected, declaring the nation’s independence despite the challenges it posed. During my many trips to Catalunya, I have been thanked by people and told Scotland has been leading the way. Catalunya is now that beacon of hope for self-determination across the world. I hope that what happened in Catalunya never happens in Scotland but that, if it does, we will act with the same resilience and resolve demonstrated by the Catalan people.

While things may feel hopeless in the present situation, Scotland’s and Catalunya’s struggle for independence is only the start of a new chapter in world history that will be written through the solidarity of people across the world.

This is not our end, only our beginning.

Yours in solidarity and for independence, Rory Steel