Scotland

Catalonia's 'bitter and personal election'

  • 23 November 2012
  • From the section Scotland

Scotland isn't the only place in Europe where independence is at the top of the agenda.

On Sunday, the people of Catalonia go to the polls as the governing party seeks a mandate to hold their own referendum.

Friday is the last day of campaigning in one of the hardest-fought Catalan elections since the restoration of democracy.

Called by president Artur Mas, of the moderate nationalist CiU, after his demands for a new fiscal pact with Madrid were rejected, this election has become both bitter and personal.

Madrid's refusal came after pro-independence demonstrations that saw 1.5 million people on the streets of Barcelona and Mr Mas has called the election to get a mandate to hold a referendum.

The response has been ferocious.

A week before the poll El Mundo published accusations of corruption on the part of Mr Mas and Oriol Pujol, son of the giant of Catalan politics Jordi Pujol who told us last month that the lack of a middle option on the Scottish ballot paper could increase support for independence.

Clear majority

Mr Mas has angrily refuted the accusations, describing them as an attempt by the Spanish state to derail the democratic process.

It seems clear that after Sunday's vote there will be a clear majority in the Catalan parliament in favour of independence.

But unlike Scotland, the pro-independence is split across a range of parties with significant parliamentary support.

Artur Mas has repeatedly cited Scotland in his campaign, calling for an outright majority like that enjoyed by the SNP to ensure that a referendum happens.

Swithering voters

The Madrid-based press have already written that off.

But local observers point to the large number of undecided voters still swithering between CiU and the left-wing independentistes ERC.

Whatever the outcome, both main parties in Spain have ruled out the possibility of an Edinburgh-style agreement to hold a referendum, saying such a move would be unconstitutional.

But politics and the law are two different things.

With the EU watching, this Catalan constitutional impasse could yet make itself felt in Scotland too.