As you will no doubt be aware, the devolved pro-independence Catalan Government announced yesterday that pro-referendum parties, forming a majority in the Catalan Parliament, had reached an agreement to allow a consultative referendum is to be held on November 9th next year to determine whether Catalonia should become a state and, if so, whether it should be independent.
Until recently the pro-independence party known as Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (Republican Left of Catalonia), which supports the minority centre-right Catalanist administration led by Artur Mas, had been pressing for the self-determination referendum or sovereignist consulta to be held before the Scottish independence referendum, which is scheduled for September 18th, as there were fears that an anticipated Scottish No vote might make it less likely that a majority of Catalans would vote Yes. It now seems as if a Scottish No vote is now perceived by the ERC to be less likely than was once the case.
The question to be put to Catalan voters is:
(a) Do you want Catalonia to become a state?
Yes or No
(b) If you have voted Yes, do you want that state to be independent?
Yes or No.
This particular formulation appears to have been necessary in order to attract the support of the socialist Greens of Catalonia, who are in favour of a Catalan state in a confederal type of accommodation with the Spanish state, as is a component (UDC) of the CiU (Convergence and Union) governing coalition.
The predictable and indeed predicted response from Madrid: "This referendum will not take place."
Telediario - 21 horas - 12/12/13
Both the Spanish governing party (the conservative People's Party, led by Mariano Rajoy) and the principal Spanish opposition party (the Socialist Party of Spain, led by Alfredo Rubalcaba) consider the proposed referendum to be definitively unconstitutional and have stated that, therefore, no negotiations leading to a referendum agreement between the Spanish and Catalan governments can be held. Furthermore, the Spanish government has made clear that the consulta will not be allowed to take place. To prevent it Mr Rajoy could suspend Catalan devolution under Article 155 of the Spanish constitution, and he has declined to rule that out. Alternatively, politicians and officials attempting to organize the referendum could simply be disqualified from holding public office. Unsurprisingly, Mr Rubalcaba has declared that Artur Mas has led Catalonia into a cul-de-sac.
Needless to say, however, the Catalan Government is well aware of the constitutional options which are available to Madrid in these circumstances. Consequently, it is to be expected that, if a self-determination referendum is blocked, as seems certain to be the case, Artur Mas will call a plebiscitary Catalan parliamentary general election on the single issue of Catalan independence, after which, if pro-independence parties were to form a majority in the new parliament, a unilateral declaration of independence would be issued. Catalan independence, in this scenario, not having been arrived at as a result of a process agreed with the Spanish state, in contrast with the Scottish case, the newly independent state could not be expected to attract universal recognition initially and, as President Van Rompuy of the European Council can be heard to point out in the Spanish television news report, could not be considered to be covered by European Union treaty provisions.
Whatever actually transpires, Catalan noises off during the weeks and months leading up to the Scottish independence referendum promise to be loud and potentially influential, I venture to suggest.
Catalan First Minister and Allies Announce a Double-Question Referendum for November 9th 2014:
"Do You Want Catalonia to Be a State? Do You Want It to Be Independent?"