Spain's Catalonia seeks self-rule referendum

Inspired by Scotland, regional parliament passes law allowing Catalans to hold non-binding independence poll.

    Spain's Catalonia seeks self-rule referendum
    President of Catalonia Artur Mas is to call for an independence vote on November 9 [AFP]

    Catalonia's parliament, inspired by the Scottish vote on secession, has passed a law that its leaders say could grant the region's 7.5 million inhabitants the right to determine their future through a vote on independence from Spain.

    Undeterred by Scotland's majority vote against indendepence, the Catalan law paving the way for a "non-binding consultation" on November 9 was backed by 106 lawmakers, versus 28 rejections.

    With its own language and culture, and a long-standing pro-independence movement that has gathered momentum in recent years of economic hardship, the wealthy northeastern region has sought a referendum on independence similar to the one held in Scotland on Thursday.

    Many of Catalonia's inhabitants feel short-changed by the national government in Madrid, which redistributes their taxes.

    RELATED: Catalans join hands to demand independence

    Unlike London, which allowed the Scottish vote, the Catalan vote on independence is opposed by Spain's central government, which has already said it will challenge the Catalan law in the nation's Constitutional Court.

    What happened in Scotland and the United Kingdom is not a setback for us because what we really want in Catalonia is to have the chance to vote, the same possibility

    Artur Mas, Catalonia's regional president

    Catalonia's regional president, Artur Mas, supported a Yes vote in Scotland, but stressed Catalans simply want the same chance as Scots.

    "What happened in Scotland and the United Kingdom is not a setback for us because what we really want in Catalonia is to have the chance to vote, the same possibility," Mas said.

    Mas is now expected to sign a decree formally calling the vote for November 
    9.

    Unlike the Scotland vote, the Catalan referendum would not result in self-rule. It would ask Catalans whether they favour secession, and if the answer is Yes, Mas says that would give him a political mandate to negotiate a path towards independence.

    But Spain's constitution does not allow referendums that do not include all Spaniards, and experts say its Constitutional Court would rule the vote illegal.

    Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has repeatedly said he will block the referendum, arguing that only the central government has the power to call a referendum on sovereignty.

    "The process in Catalonia continues and is moving ahead," Mas told a news conference in Barcelona on Friday. "The Catalan process is strengthened because we have seen how an European Union country can agree to allow a vote."

    Catalonia formally adopted the status of a "nation" in 2006 but Spain's Constitutional Court later overruled that claim.

    The prospect of an independent Scotland had captivated European separatists. Besides the Catalans, their ranks include pro-independence Basques in northern Spain; Corsicans who want to break away from France; Italians from several northern regions; and Flemish speakers in Belgium demanding more autonomy, independence or union with the Netherlands.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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