Forget Scotland—a more important secession showdown is looming in Spain. On Saturday, Artur Mas, the President of the semi-autonomous regional Catalan government, formally called a regional referendum on Catalan independence, to be held in November. The Spanish government claims that the referendum would be unconstitutional, as the country’s 1978 constitution requires matters of such importance to be put to a country-wide referendum. More, via The Guardian:
Recent days have seen the People’s Party government in Madrid make it clear that no such vote will take place on its watch. On Saturday the deputy prime minister, Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, vowed that the central government would immediately seek to have the Catalan law and decree struck down by the country’s constitutional court. “This referendum is unconstitutional and will not take place,” she said, adding: “We deeply regret the initiative of the president of Catalonia and believe it is an error. It fractures Catalan society, divides Catalans and pushes them further away from Europe.” Prime minister Mariano Rajoy, who on Saturday was flying back from China, has convened a cabinet meeting on Monday.
Will the Spanish government follow through on this promise and would they go so far as to use force to try to prevent an illegal referendum? Or, if the referendum goes forward and, as seems likely, the pro-independence side wins but the Spanish government refuses to recognize the result, what’s the next step?
For Spain, stopping Catalonian secession really is do or die. If the Catalans get out, other unhappy regions in the country will take note. The Basques will certainly want to follow, and the Galicians might well set up on their own also. This is a much bigger deal for Spain than Scottish secession would have been for the UK. Scotland accounts for less than 10% of the UK population. Catalonia, Galicia and the Basque region are among the richest parts of the country; Barcelona is Spain’s second largest city. Catalonia alone is almost a fifth of Spain’s population, and the three restive regions combined are about one quarter of Spain’s total.
Hopefully cool heads and wise counsels will prevail, but the Spanish problem is much more dangerous and intractable than the UK problem, and the two sides are currently on a collision course.