The Catalan Independence Referendum- Some Quick Thoughts

The Catalan Independence Referendum- Some Quick Thoughts…

Apologies for the long silence readers- work has been very busy of late. I hope some of you are still out there ready to read!

I was moved to start blogging again by the scenes of protest and the policy heavy-handed response to the Catalan independence referendum taking place today. Doubtless many news organisations and commentators will lead with scenes like the above, and certainly they don’t look good nor does the police response with rubber bullets seem necessary or justified.

At the same time, the attempts of commentators to suggest Spanish democracy doesn’t exist or is dying seem daft to me. See for example, this piece, for a counter view. I think we can, if we are so minded, easily separate the legal, process and constitutional questions from the daft and counter-productive response to today’s vote by the Spanish government and police.


What’s My View Then? 

Others will have strong views – here are mine:

– it’s a given that if enough people in a region want independence it should be granted
– Catalonia clearly has the geographical and administrative integrity to be independent

However that second bullet is only two of the three conditions needed for independence- the third being sustained evidence of a desire amongst at least a large proportion of the population for it and an agreed, fair, legal and decisive referendum as a means of chosing. If only 5% of the population of an area support independence for example, it seems obvious to me that no such special discussion is required.

Although most of the (limited) evidence I’ve seen suggests independence supporters are in a minority, the levels suggested (35-46%) are indeed enough to suggest that political dialogue (including the option of a referendum over the future of the region) is justified. Perhaps the Spanish government’s response will provoke even higher levels of support.

However, it’s been clear from the start that this referendum isn’t agreed, is de jure illegal and won’t be fair or decisive. The fault for that lies on both sides:

– overall hasty and hubristic action from the separatists- forcing through laws in dubious circumstances with dubious democratic legitimacy and actual ultra vires deployment (misuse)  of the regional parliament
– insensitive, bludgeoning and aggressive moves from the Spanish government

The next steps to me seem to me fairly clear- start talking; explore granting more power and funding to Catalonia; design a new process to avoid the scenes we are seeing today; amend the daft Spanish constitution to allow for separation but specify the conditions and process to allow the courts and politicians a clear road map.

For many wishing independence, any transfers of funds away from their areas to others is often seen as being short-changed, or the central state ‘stealing’ their resources. For the rest of us, its part of the normal role of a unified state.


Relevance to Scotland/UK? 

Final thought- contra the utter nonsense being written by some supporters of Scottish independence – the U.K. may not be perfect and its de jure constitution a mess, but de facto, the U.K. managed a process to allow a fair and decisive referendum. More supporters of Scottish independence should acknowledge that and should be willing to say so, instead of wittering on about further imagined slights. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of reasons to be unhappy about the UK and Scotland’s place within it, but dreaming up fake ones serves no one.

I am a supporter of a written constitution for the reasons I give here, but people who support written constitutions have a tendency to assume they fix all, and that absent them, then a proper fair and democratic approach can’t be secured. I’d suggest the Edinburgh agreement tells us otherwise.