9 November, marked an important/disappointing day for the independentistas in Catalonia, Spain. An unofficial poll regarding the sovereignty of Catalonia was carried out with almost two million Catalans taking part.
The electorate were posed with two questions: “Do you want Catalonia to be a state; and if so, do you want to be an independent state?” Although the result of la consulta has no bearing on what is written into the Spanish Constitution of 1978, the result has given a lot of hope to Catalonians and it puts a lot of pressure on the central government of Spain to allow an official referendum in the future.
The day before the unofficial poll, Mariano Rajoy, the president of Spain and the conservative party of Spain, El Partido Popular (PP), suggested that whilst he and his government remain in power, there will be no changes made to the constitution or the sovereignty of Spain. Artur Mas, the president of la Generalitat, commented shortly after casting his vote that he feels Catalonia has earned the right to a legitimate referendum. The leader of the PP in Catalonia, Alicia Sánchez-Camacho, has labelled the unofficial poll as a farcical event given that it has no influence on Spain or Catalonia itself.
The recent push for independence stems from the economic problems that are occurring in Spain and the austerity measures that Rajoy and his government are taking. Catalonia makes up 18.7% of Spain’s GDP and the Catalonian people are angered that they are paying a lot more money to the state than they are receiving. Furthermore, El PP are trying to introduce a new law that makes Spanish the only obligatory language to learn in all parts of Spain. This has perceived by many Catalonians and other Spaniards, as a method to ruin their cultural heritage. These factors have led to the rising number of pro-independent Catalonians in the last number of years.
According to Catalonia’s Centre for Opinion Studies, there was a huge increase in the number of people in favour of independence. In 2010, only 20% of its inhabitants supported independence, whereas in 2013 it was close to 50% of the population.
Catalonia is widely regarded as one of the most prosperous and richest in Spain. However, an independent Catalonia may be a lot different to a Catalonia that is a part of Spain. The European Union have stated that Catalonia would not automatically become part of the EU and that they would need to produce their own currency. Due to these potential changes to Catalonia’s stature in Europe, many of the Multi-National Companies in Catalonia have also said that they would probably leave Catalonia for more accessible markets such as Eastern Europe or even Madrid.
The theme of independence continues to be a very complicated one. It remains to be seen as to what will happen in the future, but it seems that an official referendum about the autonomy and sovereignty will be granted to the Catalonian people sooner rather than later. It doesn’t seem wise for Catalonia to become an independent state if the EU and the MNCs follow through with their threats, but it is wrong of the Spanish government to try and suppress the Catalans of their own language. The people of Catalonia need to be heeded and this can only be done through a referendum.
By Jack Noone