Scottish Campaign Boosts Catalan Quest for Independence

No doubt emboldened by the Scottish campaign to break away from the UK, Catalan politicians are expected to approve a law on Friday that would allow for a vote on independence from Spain this November.

The referendum would be non-binding and will pose two questions: 1) Do you want Catalonia to be a state? 2) And if yes, do you want that state to be independent?

The autonomous region of Catalonia is located in the northeastern part of the country and is home to 7.5 million people who represent about 16 percent of the Spanish population and account for 19 percent of Spain’s gross domestic product. It has its own language and culture.

Last Thursday, at least half a million Catalans—some estimates went as high as 1.8 million—descended on Barcelona to demand the right to vote on a potential split from Spain. 

According to Reuters, “participants dressed in red and yellow, the colours of the Catalan flag, and lined up along two of Barcelona’s main arteries to form a huge ‘V’ for ‘vote,’ visible in aerial footage. Many wore T-shirts saying ‘Ara es l’hora’ (‘Now is the time’) in the Catalan language, in a festive atmosphere on Catalonia’s national day.”

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Voice of America reported that some of the demonstrators carried Scottish flags in addition to the Estelada, the Catalan flag that combines red-and-yellow stripes with a triangle and star.

The struggle for Catalan independence has some obvious parallels to the Scottish campaign, but there are dissimilarities as well. For one thing, the central government in Madrid opposes the vote, saying it would violate the Spanish Constitution and that the government in Madrid will not allow it to happen.

According to The Local, which reports news from Spain in English, José Manuel García-Margallo, Spain’s Foreign Minister, told journalists on Tuesday that his government would use “all means necessary” to stop the planned independence referendum in Catalonia, including stripping the region of its autonomous powers.

The New York Times reports:

London’s Center for European Reform analyst Stephen Tindale told Voice of America that Scotland’s upcoming vote has ramifications across the European Union, with Spain at the top of the list.

“Support for Catalan is growing, and they are inspired by what the Scottish are doing,” Tindale said. “What’s happening is being watched very closely by many other parts of Europe, so they [regional governments] can take the message and argue for more powers from their central governments or, in the Catalan case, complete independence.”

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