Despite the recent general election landslide for Nicola’s Sturgeon’s SNP in Scotland, independence remains an unlikely prospect in the near to medium future for the northern Gaelic nation, given last year’s narrow referendum victory for the British unionist (nationalist) establishment in the UK. Similarly the North American country of Québec seems no closer to achieving its goal of independence, one that so fired a narrow majority of Québécois voters up to recent times. If anything the formally turbulent fires of Francophone nationalism have been reduced to a dull ember, with the provincial Parti Québécois and federal Bloc Quebecois being electorally eclipsed by their “unionist” (i.e federalist) or constitutionally-ambiguous rivals. Now all eyes are on Catalonia, which until the start of the year seemed certain to be forging a sovereigntist path to separation from Spain. However the prospect of actual independence as opposed to aspirational independence has thrown up all sorts of divisions and enmities within the Iberian nation, even amongst nominally nationalist parties.
Since the start of 2014 Catalonia’s governing party, the centre-right Convergència i Unió or CiU, has been riven by disagreements between – and within – it’s two distinct wings, the majority CDC and minority UDC. While the former is slightly more nationalist in attitude, the latter is more regionalist, and traditionally the alliance has always followed the smaller grouping’s conservative line. However progressive forces elsewhere in the country, which have squeezed the CiU at the ballot box and in terms of wider influence, have forced the alliance’s chairman, the CDC leader Artur Mas, to adopt a more strident tone on the issue of Catalan sovereignty (and at times quite obviously against his own political instincts). With an independence referendum of some sort likely the always present cracks in the party are finally beginning to widen and fissure.
From a report by Reuters:
“The push by Catalonia’s leaders to break away from Spain took a knock on Wednesday as infighting over the secession issue escalated and one of the parties running the region said its ministers were stepping down.
Splits within Convergencia i Unio (CiU), the coalition governing the affluent region in Spain’s far northeast, are threatening to undermine the separatist campaign.
A full-break up of CiU, formed by two parties which have worked together for 37 years, would also damage its leader, regional president Artur Mas, as he is staking his political future on the independence bid.
One of the CiU camps, UDC, has taken a more cautious approach to the secession question with some of its members expressing doubts about CiU’s transformation into a starkly pro-separatist party.
…UDC on Wednesday said that three of its ministers serving in the regional government were quitting as a result of this pressure.
It is not yet known whether CiU will run as one party or two in regional elections due on September 27, which Mas has built up as a proxy vote on independence.
The long-simmering secession movement swelled during a recession in recent years and led to mass demonstrations in favor of splitting from Spain, but has shown signs of fading in the past months.”
With the Spanish state, and EU officialdom, working hard to prevent Catalan independence, deliberately creating the impression – both domestically and overseas – that it is the wish of a small, unrepresentative minority, one must approach all reports emanating from the Iberian peninsula with caution. However it does seem that something is amiss in the majority nationalist camp.
I shouldn’t write off Scotland too soon.
The referendum was lost because just enough people (older Labour types who hadn’t kept up with changes in that party most probably) were swayed by the ‘Vow’ of powers equivalent to federalism. Since then the SNP gained all but three of Scotland’s seats at Westminster. Remember that at one time, simply getting a majority of those Scottish seats was regarded as a sufficient mandate for independence.
Over the past few days the Scotland Bill has been debated at Westminster. It gives some rather limited powers to Holyrood, mostly subject to Westminster veto. The SNP have been proposing a series of amendments, many in line with Smith’s recommendations, but all have been voted down by the major parties. Sooner of later it will become perfectly clear even to the most gullible of ‘NO’ voters that Westminster is treating Scotland with utter contempt. Add to this tightening the screw of austerity, and well sooner or later something will have to give.
The danger is of course getting the timing right, misjudge things and the movement could easily be split. Divide and Rule is always the centre’s favourite game. The SNP policy at present seems to be to hand Westminster all the rope they need in the hope that they’ll hang themselves, but popular feeling may not be so patient.
Interesting times …
Interesting on many fronts..Spent a month in San Sebastian in 1998 and I remember being really struck by the complexities of the issues including different sections within the separatist cause the difference between the two police Ertzainta and Guardia Civil and the different backgrounds of the police themselves e.g. most of the Ertzainta were from a nationalists background and most would have been Basque speakers. I remember walls being decorated with Basque and Spanish graffiti with a generous display of posters of Gerry Adams and references to Sinn Fein and Northern Ireland.These were mostly in Basque which none of us understood but my husbands Spanish left us with the clear understanding that certain Nationalists were fans and were hoping for an end to the violent campaign and emulate the ‘progress’ that was occurring in Northern Ireland. Shortly before this the National police had arrested and convicted a great number of ETA core members.
Though the split was confirmed, the political winds still favours Mas, for the following reasons:
The three-party independence coalition would win a majority (albeit narrow) according to current polling for September’s election.
Moreover, Podemos, though anti-independence, support the organisation of an official referendum, so combined, the percentage favouring self-determination will well exceed 60%.
Will Madrid continue to play hardball and insist such a vote would be illegal? It seems more likely that they will concede a legally-binding independence referendum, rather than risk the Generalitat “doing a Kosovo”.