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

  • 17th September 2018

    The upcoming New Caledonian independence referendum on the 4th of November 2018 is the outcome of a 30 years-long process of gradual decolonisation. Dr Alexandra Remond examines the prospects.

  • 14th September 2018

    For Ireland, the Brexit discussion has focused heavily on the Irish issue. This has meant an unrelenting emphasis on securing a Brexit deal which ensures no border on the island of Ireland, and achieving a backstop provision which guarantees this scenario. The expectation is that this will be achieved in the context of the Withdrawal Agreement, and before the transition phase begins. Dr Mary C Murphy looks at what the Brexit transition period means for Ireland, North and South.

  • 13th September 2018

    In her third blog on international trade issues and Brexit, Dr Kristen Hopewell looks at the high-tech US-Canada border amid claims that it offers a template to ensure a "frictionless" border in Ireland.

  • 7th September 2018

    In the second of her blogs focusing on international trade issues, Dr Kristen Hopewell looks at some of the difficulties that the UK might face as it seeks to negotiate new bilateral agreements

  • 6th September 2018

    With little more than six months to go before the UK leaves the EU on 29 March 2019, the position of Scotland vis-à-vis the EU is not much clearer than it was in the immediate aftermath of the EU referendum more than two years ago. Dr Tobias Lock looks at what has Brexit meant for Scotland so far and what developments can we expect?

Read More Posts