The Catalonia region of Spain is looking enviously at Scotland.
Thursday’s celebration in Barcelona of Catalonia National Day drew 1.8 million people, according to police estimates. That was taken as representative of how many want the region’s ties with the Madrid government to change. [The population census in 2011 was 7.5 million.]
Pro-independence Catalans support their government’s proposal to hold a referendum on the question this November 9.
But the conservatives in power in Madrid, led by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, want the Constitutional Court to suspend that plan; they really don’t want it to happen.
Head of the Catalan regional government, Artur Mas, addressed the international media, rhetorically:
“My question is, ‘Is Catalonia a different nation?’ It is a different nation. So if the Scottish people have the right to decide their political future, why not the Catalan people?”
Why? Because that right is on paper. The Scots elected a government whose main plank was to use it.
Scotland and Catalonia were subsumed in the 18th century, but the UK treaty guaranteed self-determination, while Spain’s modern constitution says the nation is indivisible.
Independence leader Alex Salmond said Scots had finished waiving their right to prosperity and choice:
“Now that we have this opportunity of a lifetime to put Scotland’s future into Scotland’s hands, more and more people are no longer saying that, they are saying instead ‘yes, because.’ Yes because we’ll have the job creating powers we need to build that more prosperous country, yes because we’ll have control over our budget to protect our public national health service, yes because we must, we absolutely must use all of the talents of the people of Scotland.”
Madrid has economic reasons which London doesn’t (or not quite as strongly). Scotland’s main wealth is North Sea oil, worth ten percent of UK total GDP. Far more significantly, Catalonia’s wealth represents 19 percent of Spain’s total, and one quarter of Spain’s exports. It is its most productive region.
Catalonia has had autonomous rule in many matters since 1980, partial jurisdiction in others. Fewer powers were devolved to Scotland in 1999.
Yet the greatest envy remains: the Scots can decide their future by referendum; the Catalans can’t.