Independence referendum: British vs. Spanish model
CATALONIA VOTES – Scotland will vote tomorrow whereas Madrid insists on blocking Catalonia’s democratic referendum of 9 November
Scotland will hold an historic referendum tomorrow, 18 September, to determine whether it should be independent or not. The British government gave its consent for the vote and declared that it will honour the result. This is the way in which political differences on sovereignty should be resolved in 21st century Europe. David Cameron was very clear in a statement last week in Edinburgh: “We are a democracy, you cannot hold people inside the United Kingdom against their will, and we should be proud of the fact that we are a democracy and that we vote about these things.”
The Scottish referendum is relevant to Catalonia in several ways. First, the Scottish case provides a model for how a central government can reach agreement with a regional government on a democratic process to give voice to citizens. Catalonia is seeking Madrid’s consent for a referendum along Scottish lines which would enable the Catalan people to exercise their right of self-determination. The Scottish Referendum sets the benchmark for how to deal with the issue of self-determination by peaceful, democratic means in which there is a free debate about the advantages and disadvantages of each option. This is in stark contrast to Spain: Madrid has hitherto refused to countenance any form of democratic vote, using legal arguments to dodge the issue, rather than looking for solutions.
Second, the Scottish Referendum campaign shows that many people in Scotland had a view that was not being listened to until the referendum took place. This bolsters the argument that there are also Catalans who need their voice to be heard and will further increase pressure in Catalonia in favour of a vote. If Madrid continues to block a referendum, there will be very significant frustration and popular anger. Thanks to Spanish intransigence, it will grow deeper and stronger.
Third, if the “Yes” campaign win and Scotland moves ahead with negotiations about separating itself from the United Kingdom, issues will arise which will also be relevant to Catalonia when the time comes. For example, we can expect that London will agree to help Scotland join the EU, because that is in the best interests of the rest of the UK. That contrasts with negative statements made by EU Commission President Manuel Barroso to the effect that Catalonia and Scotland would automatically be outside the EU and would have to reapply. Scotland will also provide potential lessons for Catalonia in negotiating many other issues such as how to deal with apportioning the national debt, membership of the UN or NATO.
For these reasons, Catalonia is taking a keen interest in the Scottish vote. Catalonia admires the way in which Britain has approached this problem and congratulates the government and people of both Scotland and the rest of the UK for an exemplary democratic process. It calls on the Spanish government to change its policy, demonstrate that its democracy is more than skin-deep, and grant Catalonia the referendum its people desire.
Picture: First minister Alex Salmond and Prime Minister David Cameron signed a deal setting out the terms for a Scottish independence referendum in October 2012 in Edinburgh.