There's only one answer to Catalonia's problem: a legitimate referendum

Only a free and fair vote can break the deadlock currently facing one of Spain’s most prosperous regions.

I have no stake in the future of Catalonia or Spain. I am neither for or against Catalan independence, but Spain and Catalonia can learn so much from what happened in the UK and Scotland.

In 2011, the SNP – against all the odds - formed a majority government in Holyrood and set out their plans for a free and fair independence vote. Crucially, an agreement was reached with the UK government. Then Prime Minister David Cameron and then First Minister Alex Salmond signed the now famous Edinburgh agreement, which allowed the Scottish government to hold a fair referendum.

The problem with the last Catalan independence votes is that Spain did not agree to them. Of course, Spain should be allowed to bicker with the Catalonian government over the issue, but if a pro-independence movement wins a majority of the seats in a regional parliament – in any country – steps should be taken to allow for said region to have the opportunity to have its an open and democratic debate one way or another.

A fair referendum – observed by international monitors – would allow the people to have a say. The main obstacle is Spain’s constitutional, which outlines the indivisible unity of the Spanish state, but this goes against the democratic principal of self-determination. Of course, states should have the right to protect their territory, but if a peaceful movement evolves and wins a majority of seats in a regional parliament, a referendum is the only outcome.

Besides, a referendum could go either way. In Thursday’s vote, the pro-Spain parties won a majority of the votes, as reported by the Guardian. A fair vote in favour of union would settle the issue for a number of years, and a close vote to stay would likely give rise to a new settlement whereby Catalonia gains more powers within the union.

At the end of the day, a fair vote is required. Compared to Catalonia, Scotland’s process has been straightforward and civil. Spain and Catalonia should learn a few things from their European neighbours.