The political situation is the tensest it has been in years. What do you need to know?
1. The autonomous communities of Spain
Catalonia has existed in various forms over the last few centuries. It is currently one of seventeen autonomous regions of Spain, and is located in the north-east of the country on the border with France. The current set-up was started in 1979 following the creation of the new Spanish constitution. A new statute of autonomy was adopted in 2006, and the area is currently recognised as a nationality within Spain, alongside Andalusia, Valencia, Galicia, the Basque Country, the Canary Islands, Aragon, the Balearic Islands and Navarre.
2. Indivisible unity
One of the main obstacles in the way of the pro-independence parties’ plans for independence is the concept of indivisible unity, set-out in the Spanish constitution, which recognises the diverse regions and nationalities within Spain, but also that the constitution exists on the basis of the “indissoluble unity of the Spanish Nation”. This line effectively makes any moves towards secession unconstitutional.
3. The pro-independence parties
The Catalan nationalist Convergence and Union party has dominated Catalan’s politics since the first election under Spain’s new constitution in 1980. They were in government following all but two elections right up until 2015. That year, the pro-independence parties joined forces as one electoral alliance (Together for Yes).
4. The first referendum
Before the 2014 election, the region held an unofficial independence referendum which was won by the pro-independence-side, albeit on a low turnout.
5. The latest referendum
This first referendum was followed by new elections in 2015, which resulted in the pro-independence parties winning a majority. This led to the recent referendum in which the region voted for independence (almost 90%) – again on a very low turnout (42.3%, according to the BBC). Spain has since suspended the region’s autonomy and new elections are to be held in December.
6. The polls: does Catalonia support independence?
Polls tend to show that the region is split on the issue of independence. Two out of three 2017 CEO polls have put those against independence ahead while one has put secessionists in the lead.
7. Scotland’s position
The situations in Catalonia are different, but similar prompting lots of comparing. Both areas have a significant degree of autonomy within their parent state, but Scotland was allowed to have a referendum by the UK whereas Spain did not extend that option to the Catalans. According to the Scotsman, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said that the vote for independence in Catalonia “cannot be ignored”, and said:
““I think in any democracy there has to be surely a legal way for people to express their view and therefore there should be a process of dialogue that allows Catalonia and the Spanish Government to decide the way forward here.”