Spain & Catalonia Locked in a Dispute Neither Can Win

Neither the Spanish nor Catalan government's have the mandate or the room for manoeuvre that would allow them to break the current impasse, says Michael Keating. 
 
Catalans’ views on the proposed independence referendum differ. Some are completely in favour and will vote Yes. Others believe that Catalonia has the right to have a say on its own future but would vote No. A few support the Spanish Government’s stance, that any kind of vote on independence is out of the question.
 
The Spanish Government’s actions may have the effect of uniting the first and second groups.
 
It is going well beyond the constitution’s provisions that Spain is indivisible to say, in effect, that even debating the matter in official forums is impermissible.
 
Spain is not merely declaring that an independence vote would not have legal effect, but physically preventing it from happening and even clamping down in publicity on both the streets and the internet.
 
It is taking legal action against elected and appointed officials. While it has not suspended the elected Catalan government (which would require a parliamentary majority it does not have) it is trying to take direct control of its finances and main responsibilities.
 
This will worry many people in Spain, including many who regard the referendum gambit itself as unwise and provocative.
 
In the 1990s, Spain faced a terrorist threat from the violent Basque group, ETA and took strong action. It came under criticism, however, for clamping down not just on ETA but also on its wider entourage and associated political parties, effectively depriving radical nationalism of a democratic outlet. In the Catalan case, there is no terrorist threat but a purely political movement seeking to achieve its ends through the ballot box.
 
Among the ironies of all this is that, according to polls, an independence referendum would almost certainly lose and, win or lose, would more likely to lead to a compromise settlement acceptable to the Catalan mainstream than a complete rupture.
 
Since the transition to democracy 40 years ago, the Catalan way has been that of political negotiation and gradual advance. Now the Spanish and Catalan governments, neither with a convincing mandate, are locked into a confrontation that neither can win.
 

Comments policy

All comments posted on the site via Disqus are automatically published. Additionally comments are sent to moderators for checking and removal if necessary. We encourage open debate and real time commenting on the website. The Centre on Constitutional Change cannot be held responsible for any content posted by users. Any complaints about comments on the site should be sent to info@centreonconstitutionalchange.ac.uk

Michael Keating's picture
post by Michael Keating
University of Aberdeen
21st September 2017
Filed under:

Latest blogs

  • 21st June 2018

    New research conducted by the universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow suggests that a post-Brexit Scotland is likely to find itself losing out on much-needed low-skilled migrant labour from the European Economic Area (EEA) to English-speaking countries such as North America, Australia, and to countries within the EEA.

  • 19th June 2018

    Following the collapse of the Rajoy government following a corruption scandal, how does the new political landscape affect the constitutional debate in Catalonia? Prof Antonia María Ruiz Jiménez of Universidad Pablo de Olavide suggests that this apparently dramatic change will make relatively little difference.

  • 13th June 2018

    While populist leaders and movements make headlines worldwide, an often more subtle majority nationalism remains an endemic condition of the modern world. This phenomenon is comparatively understudied. The Centre on Constitutional Change invites calls for abstracts for an international workshop on the topic of majority nationalism, to be held in February 2019.

  • 31st May 2018

    The recent report by the Growth Commission contains some interesting ideas, says Michael Keating, but also makes some problematic assumptions.

  • 30th May 2018

    The Scottish and Welsh Governments worked together closely during their negotiations with the UK Government over those aspects of the EU (Withdrawal) Bill that related to devolution. Despite ultimately choosing different paths, say Hedydd Phylip and Greg Davies, this spirit of cooperation looks set to continue.

Read More Posts