Financial Times

September 26, 2014 10:44 pm

Catalan independence should be put to the test

Sir, Democracies throughout the world have enjoyed the Scottish referendum. Not only for its high turnout, but also for the debate which has engaged people in political issues – around nations and emotions, but also on the Barnett formula and the West Lothian question.

While the financial sector, the EU and others are pleased with the outcome, there is one place in which the outcome was not as important as the referendum itself: Spain. There is a planned referendum for Catalan independence on November 9.

However, the referendum is being blocked by the Spanish government, which claims that it is illegal under the Spanish constitution and, hence, cannot happen. But only Madrid can make the referendum legal. That is the catch-22 situation Catalonia finds itself in. All the EU says is that it is an internal matter of a member state and it will not mediate on the issue.

One should take into account that only people who were 21 years or older in 1978 actually took part in the Spanish constitution vote, three years after Francisco Franco’s death and three years before the Guardia Civil’s unsuccessful coup d’état.

At the same time, one should not forget that in 2011 the constitution was changed in 48 hours to add public spending limits, as the European Commission required.

After the Scottish referendum, Prime Minister David Cameron said: “The Scottish National party was elected in Scotland in 2011 and promised a referendum on independence. We could have blocked that, we could have put it off . . . I am a passionate believer in our United Kingdom – I wanted more than anything for our United Kingdom to stay together. But I am also a democrat. And it was right that we respected the SNP’s majority in Holyrood and gave the Scottish people their right to have their say.”

There is an electoral mandate in Catalonia to hold a referendum both from 70 per cent of its parliament and up to 85 per cent on current opinion polls. Catalans also want to be intoxicated with the public debate and be involved in political issues, rationally assess pros and cons and democratically find a solution. The outcome is unclear and could well follow Scotland’s example. The point is to test it. If only Spain had a prime minister who was also a democrat.

Mr Carles SuarezLondon SW7, UK