Catalan independence parties approve blueprint for secession

Debate and vote on path to independence appears to violate a Spanish court ruling

Pro-independence parties in Catalonia have defied the Spanish judiciary by formally approving a blueprint for secession in a move which, in theory, formally begins the region's breakaway from Spain.

In the Catalan regional parliament yesterday, the governing Junts pel Sí (or Together for Yes) coalition and the anti-capitalist Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP) both voted to debate the findings of a parliamentary commission expressly set up to prepare the path to independence. Following a session of bitter recriminations, the commission’s report was approved with 72 votes in favour and only 11 against, as many unionists walked out of the debating chamber or refused to vote.

The most blatant challenge so far by Catalan separatists to the Spanish state, the debate and vote appeared to violate a constitutional court ruling that deemed illegal a declaration of intent to create an independent republic issued by the parliament in 2015.

"The chamber is sovereign," said Catalan parliament president Carme Forcadell, as she defended the decision to debate the commission's report.

Anna Gabriel, of CUP, said her party was fully aware of the repercussions, saying: "We are not afraid of independence."

Illegal proceedings

However, the conservative Popular Party (PP), which has governed Spain since 2011 and staunchly opposes any moves towards independence, warned that yesterday's proceedings were illegal.

“This is an attack against democracy,” said Xavier García Albiol, leader of the PP in Catalonia.

The PP, the Socialists and the liberal Ciudadanos did not vote on the report, making Catalonia Sí que es Pot (Catalonia Yes We Can), the regional arm of anti-austerity party Podemos, the only party to vote against.

“Today the constitutional court is contravened, but so are the basic principles of democracy,” said Inés Arrimadas of Ciudadanos. “In which countries in the world are the decisions of politicians not subject to the law?”

The Catalan parliament’s sovereignty has frequently been at the centre of the region’s push for independence, which began in earnest in 2012, after Madrid refused to negotiate increased financial autonomy for Barcelona.

Scotland-style referendum

In the face of the Spanish government’s refusal to allow a Scotland-style referendum, a regional election last year was treated by separatists as a vote on independence. Junts pel Sí and CUP together won a majority of seats in the Catalan parliament, giving them, they claimed, a mandate to move towards independence, despite having slightly less than half of the popular vote.

The “independence commission” set up by the parliament suggests staging a consultative process within Catalan society before embarking on “disconnection” from Spain and the creation of a new constitution which would be ratified via referendum.

The latest developments have come while Spain is in political limbo, with no permanent government in place after two inconclusive general elections. However, while this limits the ability of the acting government of Mariano Rajoy to counter the Catalan secessionist drive, the independence movement itself is struggling to maintain unity.

With CUP refusing to back the annual Catalan budget plan proposed by Junts pel Sí, regional premier Carles Puigdemont yesterday announced he will face a confidence vote on September 28th, which could be crucial for the future of the independence project.