The English daily The Guardian today devotes its editorial to the Catalonia-Spain conundrum and, despite blaming Madrid and Barcelona equally, sends out a clear message to the Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy by making a single demand shared by most Catalans: that Spain embraces “the kind of debate that took place in Scotland and in the rest of the United Kingdom in the run-up to the Scottish referendum”.
Pro-referendum parties and organisations in Catalonia have from the outset been inspired by the British and Canadian precedents, just as The Guardian suggests, and have only considered other options –such as massive demonstrations, mock referendums or even a unilateral declaration of independence– as a response to the continued impediments set up by the Spanish political establishment.
The Guardian | The Guardian view on Catalonian independence: heading for a crash
In Madrid, there has been no serious discussion on reversing the 2010 decision to strike down enhanced autonomy for Catalonia, let alone on changing the constitution to make it possible for Catalonia and the Basque country to leave if they wish, and no readiness to discuss financial grievances.
Both Scotland and Quebec have shown that if people are told their right to leave a union is not disputed, if there is reasonable redress for grievances within the existing national framework, and if the majority demonstrates a sincere affection, the chances that they will decide to stay are much higher.
A few days ago The New York Times made a similar appeal on its editorial, arguing that Rajoy’s fixation with a hard line against Catalans may well worsen the conflict rather than settling it:
The New York Times | First the Scots, Now the Catalans
[…] something as complex and emotional as national identity cannot be reduced to a purely legal issue; it requires political solutions. The long war with Basque separatists ended only when both sides agreed to negotiate. There is room for a political settlement here, too. A major complaint among the 7.5 million Catalans is that they represent 16 percent of the Spanish population and 19 percent of its gross domestic product, but get only 9.5 percent of the national budget. Public opinion polls have shown that while Catalans are narrowly split on independence, a solid majority would vote to stay with Spain if they felt they were getting a fair slice of the economic pie.