Catalans can't be stopped from voting on independence: leader
Catalonia's president warned Wednesday it was "practically impossible" to stop the region voting on secession from Spain and predicted Scotland would stay in the European Union even if it chooses independence.
"If the Catalan population wants to vote on its future, it's practically impossible to stop that forever," the president of the northeastern region Artur Mas told AFP in an interview on the eve of Catalonia's annual national day, the Diada.
The commemoration this year is more politically charged then ever as Mas has vowed to hold a "consultation" vote on November 9 to ask Catalans whether they want independence.
It also comes just a week before Scotland holds a referendum on independence from the rest of Britain.
Spain's national government fiercely opposes any move towards independence for Catalonia. It has branded the planned vote illegal and vowed to block it.
"I think it's absurd to pretend that could be so and I think the Spanish government will have to realize that," Mas said.
In contrast to Madrid's stance on Catalonia, the British government has agreed to let Scots vote in a referendum even though it is against Scotland breaking away from the United Kingdom.
Mas said Scotland's vote could smooth the way for Catalonia on its own drive for independence.
"If a nation such as Scotland can vote, why not Catalonia?" Mas said.
EU officials have warned that breaking away from the United Kingdom would leave Scotland automatically out of the European Union.
"If the 'Yes' wins, I am sure there will be negotiations very quickly, even immediately, to try to keep Scotland in the European Union," Mas said.
"I am certain that pragmatism will prevail as it always has in the EU."
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 accounts for a fifth of Spain's economy but it was hit hard by the financial crisis that broke out in 2008, which has fuelled a surge in pro-separatist feeling.
© 2014 AFP