Catalonia Secession Movement Moves Forward

Despite seeing the effort fail in Scotland, Catalans say they intend to move forward with their own independence effort.

People hold "estelada" flags, Catalan separatist flags, during a gathering to mark the Calatalonia day "Diada" in central Barcelona

Despite the failure of the secession referendum in Scotland, Catalan separatists in Spain say that they intend to go forward with their own independence drive:

(Reuters) – The leader of Spain’s Catalonia region said on Friday he would defy Madrid to hold a non-binding independence vote in less than two months, saying his people deserved the same right to determine their future as Scots who voted to stay in Britain.

With its own language and culture, and a long-standing pro-independence movement that has gathered momentum in recent years of economic hardship, Catalonia has sought a referendum on independence similar to the one held in Scotland on Thursday.

Unlike London, which allowed the Scottish vote, Madrid says even a non-binding referendum would violate the Spanish constitution and has pledged to block it in the courts.

Spanish political leaders, including centre-right Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and Socialist opposition leader Pedro Sanchez, hailed the Scottish “no” vote and said the outcome demonstrated the value of unity for Spain.

The government opened the door on Friday to revising how Spanish regions are financed but said any such move would not be linked to the Catalan independence movement.

Catalan leader Arturo Mas denied that the Scottish rejection of independence had hurt the Catalan secessionist cause.

“What happened in Scotland is not a setback for us, because what we really want in Catalonia is to have the chance to vote,” Mas said.

The Catalan regional government was due to pass a bill later on Friday giving Mas the power to call a non-binding referendum. Mas said he would sign it and would hold the vote on Nov 9.

Not being an expert, or even all that familiar, with the Spanish Constitution or Spanish law, I can’t say with any certainty whether or not the government in Madrid is correct in its position that a referendum like the one permitted in Scotland would not be allowed in Spain. In some sense, that’s largely an irrelevant argument because, before Prime Minister Cameron and Scottish First Minister Salmond, who announced his resignation after the failure of the referendum, there was also no provision in British law for the referendum that took place yesterday. That referendum became legal when the proper measures were passed by both the British and Scottish Parliaments, and it set the terms for the referendum and the consequences of a yes or no vote. In theory, there would seem to be no reason why something similar could not happen in Spain.

The main difference, of course, would seem to be that the central government in Madrid doesn’t seem to have any inclination to grant this kind of concession to the Catalan’s in the manner that the Brits did to the Scots. On some level, I suppose, this is understandable only because Catalonia is not the only region of Spain that has expressed interest in the past in greater autonomy if not outright independence. No doubt, there are fears in Madrid that any step that is seen as encouraging greater Catalan autonomy would be a signal to the Basque’s and others to begin pressing their case as well. Given the fact that these divisions in Spain have been going on for quite some time and haven’t really amount to much, perhaps the leadership is right to take a hard line stance against this latest uprising. After all, it’s a strategy that’s worked out quite well for them in the past.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    One of, if not the main reason for Madrid’s reticence, is the fact that Catalonia is the region responsible for a whole lot of the Spanish gov’ts revenues. My wife just came back and she said that in Mallorca at least, there does not seem to be so much enthusiasm for independence, probably because Mallorcan’s feel about Catalans just about the same as they feel about the rest of Spain.

  2. Ben Wolf says:

    The era of large, centrally governed states is fading across the planet. This is the future, assuming human civilization lasts another hundred years.

  3. al-Ameda says:

    Madrid is always nervous when the Catalans and Basques start talking about independence – those two regions are responsible for much of Spain’s GDP.

    Madrid will always be on notice, the Spanish Civil War is only 75 years past, and is the case with the American Civil War, it’s not over.