Scottish vote puts Catalonia in the spotlight

Catalan MonitorNews Roundup

The National Interest article screenshotAs Scotland’s referendum of independence from the United Kingdom approaches, and following last week’s Catalan demonstration in Barcelona, more and more international media outlets are turning their attention to the political process in Catalonia. One of them is the Business Insider, which has published a Q & A with The Spain Report editor Matthew Bennet:

Business Insider | There’s Another Huge Independence Movement That’s About To Send Shockwaves Through Europe
What’s happening on November 9?
That depends on what happens between now and then. If we listen to the Catalan First Minister, Mr. Mas, and his parliamentary ally, Mr. Junqueras, voting stations will be opened, ballot boxes will be registered and there will be a vote on the independence of Catalonia, as promised by the Catalan government to Catalan voters. If we listen to Mr. Rajoy and Madrid, there will absolutely not be any kind of a vote on November 9 because any such vote is illegal and therefore any attempt to organise or carry one out would leave the organisers—the Catalan government and its supporters—facing criminal charges for contempt of court, sedition or rebellion.

Also the Financial Times has devoted an article in explaining what separatist movements could the Scottish referendum trigger in the event of a Yes vote:

Financial Times | Scottish separatism fuels movements in Spain and Italy [also available here] For the third year in a row, a vast demonstration in support of independence was held on Thursday in Barcelona, Catalonia’s capital, to commemorate the diada – the Catalan national day. Banned under the highly centralised Spanish dictatorship of Francisco Franco, who died in 1975, the diada marks the day in September 1714 when Spanish forces compelled Catalonia’s surrender in the war of the Spanish succession.

The demonstration was expected to be big enough to undercut the arguments of Spain’s central government that separatism has been irremediably discredited by the tax evasion scandal surrounding Jordi Pujol, the father of modern Catalan nationalism.

The financial press is clearly taking an interest on the subject, especially after polls in Scotland put the Yes to an unexpected majority last week, which made the markets unease and sent the pound sliding. Here is Zerohedge’s take on Catalonia:

Zerohedge | What Happens When “Scotland” Comes To Spain?
In cases as complex as the one above the most likely scenario can sometimes be identified by finding the dominant strategy (in terms of game theory). However, it is extremely difficult to identify such a strategy given the above described constellations of incentives and constraints. For example, PM Rajoy could opt for a divide-and-rule strategy by trying to entice Mas’ CiU away from the alliance with ERC via material concessions. But that would cause the fall of the current government and more importantly could further boost ERC’s projected share of seats. On top of that, Rajoy will also have to take into account the repercussions of his concessions on other regions – for example on the Basque regions. The risk of ending up in a “prisoner’s-dilemma” conundrum, where the least optimal solution is selected, is material.

Finally, The National Interest features a long-form, well-informed piece on the origins of the conflict, stressing that its causes go beyond the financial crisis and detailing the negative attitude by the Spanish governments which has ultimately fanned the pro-independence sentiment in Catalonia.

The National Interest | Catalonia: Spain’s “Scotland”?
Although the financial crisis has certainly fanned the flames of separatism in Catalonia (and elsewhere in Europe), the underlying issue is the Spanish government’s lack of respect for the Catalan culture and language. A long tradition of negotiation has allowed the Catalans in Spain to successfully bargain with the state for a level of political and cultural recognition, generally without the specter of violence, at least in the recent democratic era. Indeed, it seemed that the latest reward for this pragmatism was Catalonia’s 2006 statute of autonomy, which included mention of the region as a “nation” and affirmed further control in legal, linguistic and financial matters.