What do Scotland and Catalonia have in common? Not a lot on the face of it. But actually, they share one thing in common: a debate over independence. The calls for Catalan independence have been heard as far back as the 1600’s but it has continually remained a part of Spain.
The Scottish Referendum was carried out earlier this year but the result was to remain part of the United Kingdom, something similar in Spain and the Catalan region has long been called for.
Reasons for wanting independence from Spain include historical and cultural differences, and also for financial reasons. Catalonia is very heavily taxed by Spain because it has the highest GDP compared to all the other regions, with tourism being the regions biggest source of income with the city of Barcelona its biggest draw.
The Catalonia region in the northeast of Spain itself has a population of 7,354,411 according to data from 2008. Artist Salvador Dali and footballers Cesc Fabregas and Gerard Pique are examples of famous Catalans.
In the third regional election in five years earlier this week, Catalan pro-independence parties won a parliamentary majority despite only securing 47.8 per cent of votes cast overall.
The main separatist alliance Together For Yes won 62 seats out of the 135 total but managed to get the majority they needed thanks to the support of a small but radical pro-independence party, the CUP, who held 10 seats.
Speaking after the ballots had been counted; the Regional President of Catalonia Artur Mas said: “We have won… we have a clear majority in the Catalan Parliament to go ahead.” Further plans are not yet clear, but the Spanish Prime Minister said he would ‘listen’ to Catalan’s new regional government but refused to be drawn on the independence debate.
The vote was not actually an official independence vote because it was still only regional elections. Instead, President Artur Mas turned it into an alternative independence vote and used the votes for pro-independence parties as a sign that the people of Catalonia did want to break away from Spain.
It was played this way because a legal referendum on Catalonian independence could not be held. The Spanish central government has promised to continually challenge any unilateral moves towards independence by going to the courts.
President Mas himself has been summoned to court over claims he abused his power and embezzled public funds and also for his role in attempting to stage an independence referendum in 2014. Many pro-independence supporters see this as a move by the Spanish government to counter the success of the Catalan secessionists. Indeed, the Catalan government described the Spanish governments claims as “politically motivated.”
The Spanish government in its different iterations over the years has always said that the country as a whole would not be ready for Catalan secession. This has been the view of many in Europe too especially with the troubled economic climate as it is.
The long road to independence will not end as a result of these elections, instead adding another turn along the way. The claims regarding Artur Mas are concerning but may never be truly resolved due to the political wrangling’s of both sides. If Spanish attitudes towards Catalonia do not change and disputes are not resolved, a declaration of independence could be imminent.