Current Affairs Politics

Catalonia, Scotland And Québec

An Chatalóin (Catalonia)
An Chatalóin (Catalonia)

Couple of articles looking at the faltering fortunes of the sovereignty movements in Scotland and Québec when compared to the dynamism readily observable in their Catalan equivalents. The first comes from Patrick West in the contrarian Spiked and reflects a broadly British Unionist Nationalist viewpoint:

“On the face of it, Spain and the United Kingdom have much in common. Both are maritime, quasi-federal states and former empire-builders, who in the post-war era have faced the prospect of disintegration, as peoples in their peripheral nations have sought varying degrees of separation. In each case, the largest central nation, Castile and England, has resisted violent campaigns of national liberation, in the Basque country and Northern Ireland respectively. That’s why the IRA and ETA made common cause: it’s normal for separatist groups to forge such allegiances. It’s also the reason why the two nationalist movements in countries now seeking peaceful means of withdrawal, Catalonia and Scotland, have paid much attention to each other’s fortunes. No wonder that Catalan leaders have been looking seriously at holding their referendum at about the same time as Scotland’s, which takes place on 18 September 2014.

Is such a comparison valid, though? Is an alliance between Catalonia and Scotland useful? In each case, I would say no and no. The reality that Scotland is looking increasingly likely to vote ‘no’ is bad news for the Catalan independence movement. If ‘Catalonia is not Spain’, as the familiar banner reads, it isn’t Scotland, either.

It’s not entirely coincidental that the Catalan parliament announced a referendum in January, 12 months after London agreed to one in Scotland. Catalans have been greatly enthused by the progress made by the Scottish National Party (SNP) under the charismatic Alex Salmond. Yet it has increasingly become an unreciprocated love affair. Salmond has so far kept his distance. There’s no point in making enemies with Madrid at this stage, as, unlike London, a belligerent Madrid has not agreed to an official referendum and the outcome in Catalonia isn’t binding.

The realisation that Scotland will probably vote ‘no’ (support for independence is at around 30 per cent and falling) is causing many in Catalonia, where secessionists make up a 70 per cent majority, to have a rethink. In January, the influential, left-leaning internet news site VilaWeb made known its concerns: ‘In Scotland, the process is practically exclusively led by the Scottish National Party, which is opposed by an ideologically diverse coalition’, wrote the site’s editor Vicent Partal. ‘In Catalonia, by contrast – and this became clear in the last election – the people don’t want a single party or a single leader to run the process.’”

While there is much of interest in the opinion piece it is just that: opinion, and Britnat opinion to boot. Still, definitely worth a read. The second article comes from Konrad Yakabuski in Canada’s Globe and Mail:

“What do you get when you’ve got a conservative prime minister embroiled in scandal who is so deeply unpopular in the province currently run by sovereigntists that he keeps driving voters into the arms of the secessionists?

The Parti Québécois might wish we were talking about Stephen Harper, whom sovereigntists consider their best weapon in the quest for Quebec independence. But the PQ has been unable to translate Quebeckers’ aversion toward Mr. Harper and his policies into sovereigntist support.

That’s not the case in Catalonia, where Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, his centre-right People’s Party and the region’s secessionist government are on a collision course that looks set to culminate in an independence referendum in 2014. While Anglo-Saxons focus on Scotland’s independence vote, most of the rest of the world – and especially Quebec – will have its eyes on Catalonia.

The odds of major political upheaval seem much higher in Catalonia, where more than two-thirds support outright independence or more autonomy from Madrid. As beleaguered Spain’s most prosperous region, with bustling Barcelona as its capital and a distinct language as its cultural glue, a new arrangement with Spain is increasingly sought by Catalonians. Nearly 100,000 of them filled a soccer stadium last month chanting, “Catalonia is not Spain.” Fifteen times that many – one-fifth of the Catalan population – marched for independence in Barcelona last September.

This is one more major problem for Mr. Rajoy, whose leadership has already been sapped by a 27-per-cent unemployment rate and voter discontent with the budget cuts he’s imposed to meet deficit targets set by the European Union.

As bad as it is, the economic crisis isn’t even the biggest threat to Mr. Rajoy. The corruption scandal consuming his party – and dominating the national media – has left him mired in political quicksand. The Prime Minister faces allegations that he received potentially illegal payments from a slush fund set up by a former People’s Party treasurer who is now in prison awaiting trial on fraud and money-laundering charges. Mr. Rajoy denies the allegations, but the scandal won’t soon die.”

Though it is quite possible that by the end of 2014 the Spanish state as we presently know it will be well on its way to dying.

8 comments on “Catalonia, Scotland And Québec

  1. Independence efforts in Quebec have been on the wane for the past 20 years, unfortunately. I have nothing to back this up, but I would imagine that the Canadian dollar’s strong position versus the U.S. dollar in recent years has done nothing to bolster the drive for sovereignty in Quebec, either.


    • Yes, there does seem to be a lack of strong separatist feeling amongst the electorate at large in Québec, though I would guess that it is still in and around the 50% mark. I would also factor in demographic changes as well that have cut away at the nationalist block vote in recent times. Perhaps the unpopularity of the federal government might change that acceptance of the status quo but there doesn’t seem much sign of it. That said Pauline Marois’ (media-hyped?) unpopularity doesn’t help the PQ cause and the smaller nationalist parties seem unable to make much head way against the PQ core vote.

      It will be interesting to see how the PQ’s sister party, BQ, fare in the federal elections next time around after the general election meltdown of support.


      • I also wonder if, going forward, the buildup surrounding the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation, which will take place in 2017, will negatively impact the separatist movement. The federal government is going to shell out a whole lot of money for the occasion and likely use it as an opportunity to demonstrate the purported benefits of being part of the Canadian nation.

        Quebec officials who are pro-union will likely want to do the same, which means there’s going to be a whole lot of “success” stories being touted by government-bought advertising in the years ahead.

        That can be a hard thing to overcome.


        • I hadn’t thought of it but now that you say, yes, that will be a major factor in the coming years. Hard to say which way it will fall. Depends on how the Canadian “Unionist” parties handle it. Too much triumphalism might backfire. You have me thinking about that one.


  2. Màrtainn Mac A Bhàillidh

    Interesting keeping up with our fellow independistas however Scotland will vote Yes, and no amount of unrepresentative BritNat polling will prevent it. The 30% support figure discounts a huge number of undecided voters who are far more likely to move towards independence as the campaign builds and the cast-iron case is made. Yes Scotland have many more activists on the ground and far stronger online support, as well as more creative, energetic, grass-roots movements which will undoubtedly win the day!! Scotland will be re-joining the international community in 2014 and hopefully Catalonia and Québec will not be far behind.


    • Thanks for the Comment, a Mhàrtainn. I tend to agree that the Yes vote is considerably underestimated, even with the evidence of the polling companies weighing so heavily in favour of the No camp. As others have pointed out those who favour the status quo tend to vote in lesser numbers than those who actively favour change, especially where the outcome is predicted to favour the established order of things. The Yes side in such a situation might just snatch a win, albeit by a narrow margin. However the famous Québec vote should be borne in mind. An assumed victory became defeat.


  3. James Todd

    This website looks different everytime I come here. Very cool. That ogham for An Sionnach Fionn on the right? Very cool. Anyway, I haven’t kept track of the Scottish Nationalist movement too much. This article is the first update I’ve heard of it for months now. Gotta say, pretty depressing to hear that the polls are indicating so few Scots are enthusiastic about gaining their independence. I remember shortly after the referendum date was agreed to when the polls were indicating that most Scots wanted a divorce from England, so to speak. The movement was brimming with energy. A lot of English bloggers and writers at the time predicted that Scots would lose faith and decide not to separate once the time came. I assumed that they were just sore over the propsect of the Union breaking up. Looks like they might have been right.

    It’s depressing. Thankfully Catalans aren’t showing the same reluctance and, quite frankly, cowardice that Scots are showing according to those polls. Hopefully Scotland’ll find its balls in time for the referendum.


    • Welcome back, James, and spot-on with the Ogham interpretation.

      Yes, the Scottish independence campaign was brimming with energy, as you say, but a lot of false steps and controversies have sapped much of that enthusiasm. The SNP must take a lot of blame for that. However things are far from over and it may well be a tighter vote than most believe.

      Remember, virtually the whole British political and media establishment are arrayed against the Yes side. I don’t believe there is a single national newspaper or magazine in Britain that is in any way sympathetic. Most are ferociously hostile to the SNP and Scottish nationalist in general.


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