Catalan parliament approves call for vote on independence from Spain

Resolution says date should be fixed by end of this year for ballot

The president of Catalonia, Artur Mas, at a  celebratory event in Barcelona for the National Day of Catalonia on September 11th. Thousands of Catalans celebrating the “Diada Nacional” held demostrations to demand the right to hold a self-determination referendum next year. Photograph: David Ramos/Getty Images

The president of Catalonia, Artur Mas, at a celebratory event in Barcelona for the National Day of Catalonia on September 11th. Thousands of Catalans celebrating the “Diada Nacional” held demostrations to demand the right to hold a self-determination referendum next year. Photograph: David Ramos/Getty Images

 


The Catalan regional parliament has approved a motion calling for a referendum on independence from Spain, despite staunch resistance to the plan in Madrid.

Yesterday’s resolution said a date should be fixed by the end of this year for the ballot and stated: “There is no norm or disposition within the current legal framework that prevents the celebration of a referendum by the citizens of Catalonia on its political future.”

The CiU coalition, which governs the region, voted in favour, as did the radical nationalists of the Catalan Republican Left (ERC), the leftist CUP and the ICV Greens, easily clearing the 68 votes need for a majority.


‘United’ response
The approval follows a recent call by Catalan president Artur Mas for a “united and consensual” response from the region’s parties to the refusal of Spain’s central government to countenance a referendum on the grounds that it is unconstitutional.

Mr Mas has led the political campaign for a break with Spain over the last year, riding a swell of grassroots separatist feeling that saw hundreds of thousands of Catalans form an independence-themed “human chain” across their region earlier this month.

They say the Spanish state underinvests in Catalonia, which is an industrial hub, and does not respect the autonomy the region has been granted.

The Catalan president and other nationalist politicians have called for a vote on independence in 2014, pointing to Scotland’s referendum as an example to follow.

However, doubts have recently surrounded the Catalan plan to hold a ballot next year. Earlier this month Mr Mas suggested the referendum might have to be put back until 2016, apparently in an effort to assuage the less separatist-minded factions in his coalition, the unity of which appears under threat.

He has since reaffirmed 2014 as the target but there is disagreement over how many questions should be put to voters in the planned referendum, as well as over their content.


‘Third way’
The original idea was to offer two options in the referendum: independence or remaining part of Spain. Again, there is discord between Mr Mas and some of his partners within the coalition who, along with the Socialists, have expressed support for a referendum question offering a “third way”: increased autonomy for Catalans but not full independence.

“The third way is what we’ve always done and if we are where we are it’s because these ‘third ways’ haven’t worked,” Mr Mas said on Thursday.