Ever since I've known what Catalonia is, I've tried to explain it to as many people as I could find. "How's life in Spain?" friends would ask when I to went to my native US for a visit from my new home in Barcelona.

"Uhh, well, it's not exactly Spain," I would begin, and depending on how much their eyes glazed over, I would add more or fewer details.

At first, it was a personal thing; I wanted people to understand my new life. But after a while it became political: I was frustrated with the treatment Catalonia got from Spain and wanted it to change.

And something more: Spain keeps Catalonia invisible in order to limit Catalan power and influence. If you don't exist, if you are simply a "wealthy region in northeastern Spain", it's much more difficult to assert any claims over controlling your own destiny.

HeraldScotland: People march during a Catalan Pro-Independence demonstration celebrating the Catalan National Day on September 11, 2015 in Barcelona, Spain. Photo by David Ramos/Getty ImagesThat's why Spain kept Catalan parents from naming their children with Catalan names, has prohibited the Catalan language repeatedly and brutally, continues to refuse to allow Catalan to be an official language in the European Union or indeed the Spanish Congress, barely teaches it in its own universities, tries to pick away at Catalan immersion schooling, openly suggests that Catalan school kids should be "Hispanicised', and insists over and over again that Catalonia is Spain, or more often Catalonia is Spain's, and that Catalans, whether they like it or not, will 'die Spanish'.

This is why any campaign for Catalonia's independence, and indeed for Catalonia's survival, depends integrally on explaining just what Catalonia is, and why in fact it is not Spain, and it has a right to exist on its own.

In other words, this is why so many people, me included, spend so much time trying to explain Catalonia to the world, its history, its culture, its language, its food, its customs, its self-identification as a people and as a nation. And we have been wildly successful.

That 'northeast region' now has a name that everyone knows, and its future is being discussed in Parliaments around the world.

This weekend Alex Salmond gave an interview on Catalan TV3.

The Herald's comprehensive coverage and a video of his interview can be seen here.

As I watched, it occurred to me that all this attention to what the international community knows about Catalonia might be being misconstrued.

Make no mistake: we're not asking for advice, and we're certainly not asking for permission.

And I'm not sure if it was the fault of the interviewer or the interviewee, but what I gleaned from listening was that Mr Salmond understands perfectly well Catalonia's right to self-determination, but still insists that we ask to be allowed to hold a referendum.

Mr Salmond's views have been widely reported in Catalonia, including on the front pages of newspapers like El Punt Avui.


But it is clear the former Scottish first minister does not understand Catalonia's current context in a state whose understanding of democracy is so limited that it has absolutely refused to allow even an unofficial, certainly non-binding poll on Catalan independence and has charged the president and two ministers in court over their insistence on holding one.

Spain, as Mr Salmond is fond of saying, is not the UK.

HeraldScotland: First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond poses for a portrait at the Sunset Tower Hotel in West Hollywood, California, in this June 17, 2012 file photo. Scotland's nationalist leader Alex Salmond has more than independence on his mind. The combative politi

There is no long history of democracy here, no transparency, and only nominally and occasionally a free press.

In short, if we follow Mr Salmond's advice and 'calm souch' until Spain gets around to behaving democratically and allowing a negotiated referendum, there won't be anything left of Catalonia to self-determine. And not to be cruel, but we have to remember one more thing: Salmond lost.

Instead, the Catalan people have moved forward on our own feet. We have massively mobilised, we have clearly stated our intentions, we have voted with the highest turnout in our history, and we have won.

Our next steps—forming a government, declaring the commencement of the separation with Spain, creating state structures, and legislating an interim catch-all law—are our own.

That is what self-determination means. We need not follow Salmond's or anyone else's advice. We need not continue to pretend that if we ask especially nicely, Spain will relent and recognise the need for a referendum.

HeraldScotland: Mass demonstration in Barcelona organised by the Catalan National Assembly

We need only follow the voice of the Catalan people. And that message was made crystal clear last September 27 when 48 per cent of the electorate said yes to independence in contrast with 39 per cent who said no. The largest significant remaining parties and slates have stated their votes should neither be counted as Yes nor as No.

Background: Who Won Catalonia's baffling elections

The job of Mr Salmond and the rest of the world is simply to listen.

American-borr writer Liz Castro, pictured below, is spokeswoman for the Assemblea Nacional Catalana, Catalonia's main grassroots pro-independence campaign. It is the organisation behind the mass Barcelona rallies used to illustrate this article.