Author Topic: view on Catalonian independence: heading for a crash  (Read 1392 times)

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Offline VivaWikileaks

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view on Catalonian independence: heading for a crash
« on: November 02, 2014, 23:28:01 PM »
Spain has a complex and contradictory tradition as a multinational state. On the one hand there is the older legacy of a polity originally united by dynastic alliances, where the monarch ruled differently in his various territories, observing the prevailing local rights and customs. On the other there was a powerful centralising tendency under the Bourbon kings and, later, under Franco which sought to iron out diversity, instil obedience to Madrid and limit if not abolish autonomy. To complicate matters further, the absolutism of the centre was often countered by the intransigence of the Basque and Catalan movements, creating a situation in which neither had any inclination to compromise.
This all-or-nothing attitude has survived the transition to democracy and now, in the shape of a collision between an unbending Mariano Rajoy, the Spanish prime minister, and Artur Mas, the determined president of the Catalan government, could undermine the Spanish state at a time when the last thing Europe needs is another major country threatening to break up. Unlike the British government in the case of Scotland, the Spanish government explicitly rules out the possibility of Catalonian independence and therefore has also ruled out a referendum on the issue which all would regard as binding. Denied such a referendum, Mr Mas has decided to stage a vote anyway, while conceding that the result will have no force in law. Pushed from behind by more radical separatist parties, he has played with various permutations, his final position being that, on the date originally set for a referendum, there will be a non-binding vote, in effect a referendum in all but name. There is no constitutional requirement on the rightwing Partido Popular government in Madrid to do anything about the result, but the impact on Spanish politics of a large majority for independence would be huge. The Catalan president has reserved the right to follow through, if necessary, with a general election fought on the independence issue, again not binding on Madrid but equally disruptive. In neither case could Madrid possibly carry on as if nothing had happened.
There is an urgent need for the kind of debate that took place in Scotland and in the rest of the United Kingdom in the run-up to the Scottish referendum, but the makings of it are hard to discern. In Catalonia, often a rather claustrophobic society, there is no equivalent to the “Better Together” campaign, and little discussion of whether a rich region whose prosperity has historically rested, in part, on the back of workers coming in from the rest of Spain, has some sort of duty to repay that debt. In Madrid, there has been no serious discussion on reversing the 2010 decision to strike down enhanced autonomy for Catalonia, let alone on changing the constitution to make it possible for Catalonia and the Basque country to leave if they wish, and no readiness to discuss financial grievances.
Both Scotland and Quebec have shown that if people are told their right to leave a union is not disputed, if there is reasonable redress for grievances within the existing national framework, and if the majority demonstrates a sincere affection, the chances that they will decide to stay are much higher.