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Scottish Canary
Spain to Catalonia: Don't Expect to Follow Scotland's Example

Scotland’s independence referendum has become an inspiration to other secessionist movements in Europe, but Spain, for one, is nowhere near as complacent as the UK was. Its Foreign Minister is warning that Spain will take a hard line against Catalonia’s attempt to engineer a similar referendum, the Wall Street Journal reports:

Spain said it would use “the full force of the law” to block a planned nonbinding referendum on independence in Catalonia, including a suspension of the regional government’s ruling authority if necessary.

The warning Tuesday by Foreign Minister José Manuel García Margallo was one of strongest by the Madrid government against a proposed Nov. 9 vote in the wealthy industrial region. It was made as Catalan leaders debated a backup plan should the vote be blocked—an early election of the region’s parliament that would test support for political parties seeking independence.

He had some harsh words for the Scottish independence movement:

Mr. García Margallo said a vote for independence in Scotland would be “an awful precedent” and “a precedent for Balkanization, which goes against the process of union.”

“Honestly, I think [Scottish independence] is bad for Scotland, bad for the United Kingdom and bad for the European Union,” he added.

García Margallo added that Catalonia shouldn’t be allowed to make the decision without input from the rest of Spain, saying, “Each and every Spaniard is the owner of each and every square centimeter of the country.”  This point resembles Walter Russell Mead’s take on Scottish independence in his recent essay: 

Parliament could have insisted that the other parts of the United Kingdom be consulted as well. It took agreement by both England and Scotland to create one of the world’s longest lived and most successful multinational unions; why should only one party have the right to break it up? England doesn’t have the unilateral right to expel Scotland from the Union; why did Parliament act as if Scotland had the right to unilateral divorce?

It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that neither the cabinet nor the political class as a whole really thought this matter through.

That the UK political class mismanaged the response to the Scottish independence movement is clear enough, and they are now scrambling to make up for it. But as Mead suggests, even if the Scottish independence movement doesn’t march to victory this week, it has already been strengthened by its surprising degree of success—and that success may continue to give heart to other separatist movements, despite European leaders’ condemnations. And given the dissatisfaction with the EU’s colorless and remote leadership, not to mention the continent’s economic troubles, nationalist, populist, and secessionist movements won’t lose their appeal any time soon.

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  • Andrew Allison

    Spain may be making a mistake in attempting to prevent a non-binding referendum. It might make more sense to take the temperature of the Catalan independence water and decide how to address it than further inflame the independence movement. BTW, as noted previously, the Scottish referendum is not binding on the UK.

    • f1b0nacc1

      In the case of Catalonia, I suspect that the Spanish elites have already ‘taken the temperature of the Catalan independence water’, and this explains their vehement disinclination to put it to a vote of any sort. Unlike Scotland, which is a parasite so far sunk in its welfare-addled desperation that it believes it can support its welfare state without the productive South to prey upon, Catalonia is the rich and productive part of Spain that knows it would do quite nicely without the rest of the dead weight dragging it down.

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