Catalans press independence vote despite Scottish 'No'

Catalans press independence vote despite Scottish 'No'

19th September 2014, Comments 0 comments

The Spanish government on Friday welcomed Scotland's "No" vote on independence, but Catalans determined to break away from Spain pushed ahead defiantly for their own ballot on self-rule.

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Nationalists in the northeastern Catalonia region keenly watched the result from Scotland, knowing a "Yes" result there would fire up their own campaign to hold a vote -- a move fiercely opposed by Spain's central government.

"We are very happy that Scotland is staying with us," Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said, hailing the result as the best outcome "for themselves, for all of Britain and for the rest of Europe".

But in Catalonia, supporters of independence were undaunted.

Just hours after the results of the Scottish referendum were announced, Catalonia's parliament passed a law that its leaders say will authorise them to hold a non-binding "consultation" on independence from Spain.

The law was passed with 106 votes in favour and 28 against.

The region's president Artur Mas said his bid to hold a vote on independence from Spain had been "strengthened" by Scotland's referendum regardless of the result and despite Madrid's fierce resistance.

"The process in Catalonia continues and is moving ahead," Mas told a news conference in Barcelona on Friday.

"The Catalan process is strengthened because we have seen how an EU country can agree to allow a vote," he said.

Mas is now expected to sign a decree formally calling the vote for November 9.

Rajoy has branded the planned vote illegal and vowed to defend the unity of Spain. His government intends to block the ballot by appealing to the Constitutional Court.

- Scottish 'stability' relieves Spain -

Supporters of independence for Catalonia were inspired by the referendum in Scotland, but complained that whereas the British government approved those polls, Madrid was denying Catalans a similar vote.

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron, despite opposing independence, has promised more powers over tax, spending and welfare to Scotland's devolved government.

In the wake of the referendum result, he extended that offer to the rest of the United Kingdom.

His stance drew envy among pro-independence Catalans.

"Scotland has voted and will achieve more autonomy, whereas we are not even being allowed to vote," said Joan Rabasseda, the mayor of Arenys de Munt, a staunchly pro-independence town north of Barcelona.

"I would have liked the 'Yes' vote to win in Scotland in order to open up a debate at a European level. We will have to hope that debate opens up at least in Catalonia," he said.

The "No" vote was one less headache for Rajoy as he resists Mas's campaign, while working to consolidate Spain's recovery from recession.

Scots "have chosen between segregation and integration, between isolation and openness, between stability and uncertainty", Rajoy said in a recorded video message on Friday.

The leader of Spain's main opposition Socialist Party, Pedro Sanchez, welcomed the Scottish result and reiterated his party's call for a "reform of the constitution" to respond to regional demands.

Proud of their distinct Catalan language and culture, many of Catalonia's 7.5 million inhabitants feel short-changed by the national government in Madrid, which redistributes their taxes.

Catalonia formally adopted the status of a "nation" in 2006 but Spain's Constitutional Court later overruled that claim.

At the height of Spain's economic crisis in 2012, Rajoy rejected Mas's demand to give Catalonia more power to tax and spend.

"Madrid should understand that if the only way is to block the Catalan consultation using the legal frameworks, this is something that is not going to work," Mas said in English.

"The only way to resolve this Catalan democratic challenge is to sit down at the table to talk about the referendum, to agree the terms of the referendum, to listen to each other and to make possible that Catalan people vote."


© 2014 AFP

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