After all the excitement of Scotland’s vote for independence
it was something of an anti-climax for many people when they voted to retain the union with the
rest of the United Kingdom. However countries seeking independence from larger
cousins is hardly something new. Over the years, dozens of countries have tried
to gain independence with varying degrees of success.
However as with Scotland versus the United Kingdom, this
independence is normally sought by a country seeking to leave an unwelcome
partnership. What is rather more unusual is the situation currently bubbling up
in Spain. Here the region of Catalonia is attempting to claim independence from
the rest of Spain.
So why is Catalonia seeking independence? Their pro nationalist
faction would list a number of reasons. To begin with Catalonia has always
considered itself ‘separate’ from Spain. They speak their own official language
(Catalan) though, to be fair, Spanish is still the other official language
Catalonia also demonstrates a number of cultural differences
to the rest if Spain. For example they have their own flag, history and
culture. For decades they have been fighting to keep this unique culture alive
and well rather than being absorbed into the rest of Spain and losing their
Catalonia also finds itself in a unique financial position
that both sides are trying to use as proof for their arguments. On the one
hand, the small province of Catalonia is responsible for almost a fifth of
Spain’s GDP, and residents are frustrated about the way so much of their wealth
ends up being filtered away to the rest of Spain. Independence could mean that
Catalonia gets to keep more of this wealth, and becomes a stronger global
citizen as a result.
On the other hand, Catalonia has borrowed billions of
dollars from the EU in recent years. Until now this hasn’t been a problem as,
being a part of Spain, this debt has been covered and serviced as necessary by
the Spanish government. However in claiming independence Catalonians would be
forced to service this debt themselves. As a ratio of debt:earnings, the sums
owned would likely force Catalonia to seek an economic bailout from the EU.
Whatever the arguments for and against, it seems that
Spaniards and Catalonians won’t have to deal with the possibilities for some
time to come. Catalonia has been unsurprisingly vocal about their forthcoming
referendum where locals can decide on whether they would like independence from
Sadly, it seems that Spain’s Constitutional Court claims the
vote is illegal and has suspended it for the time being pending further
investigation. Such ‘stalling’ will no doubt do nothing to help Spain’s
reputation in Catalonian eyes.
In the meantime, the pro-independence Catalonian government
has decided to push forward regardless in a political move which could be
explosive to say the least. Europe waits with baited breath for the November 8th
vote to see whether it will go ahead, and if so the result. There will no doubt
be much debate both before and after the event.