Spain to block Catalonia independence referendum

A man with a pro-independence Catalan flag walks in front of people forming a human chain to mark the "Diada de Catalunya" (Catalunya"s National Day) in central Barcelona In September pro-independence Catalans formed a 400km (250-mile) human chain across the region

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The Spanish government has vowed to block plans by parties in Catalonia to hold a referendum on independence on 9 November of next year.

"The poll will not be held," Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon told journalists moments after Catalonia's President, Artur Mas, announced a deal.

Mr Mas said agreement had been reached on the date and on two questions.

Voters would be asked if they wanted Catalonia to be a state and if they wanted it to be an independent state.

Mr Mas announced that an agreement had been reached in principle and had still to be approved formally by the parties internally.


So the Catalan Government has set a date for when it plans to hold a vote in Catalonia, with two questions, the second of which implies, if a majority of people vote "yes", that Catalonia would no longer be part of Spain.

However. the Spanish Popular Party led-government, as well as the main opposition Socialist Party have already said this can not happen.

Catalan pro-independence parties, which hold a majority of parliamentary seats in Catalonia, still sound determined to hold the vote, come what may.

In that case, the vote might more accurately be described as a "popular consultation", as, under the current terms of the Spanish constitution, the result would not be legally binding.

If a majority did vote yes, to both proposed questions (and recent opinion polls are far from clear whether that would the case), then what would happen next in Catalonia is far from clear.

The Catalan government has hinted in the past, that, with popular support, it might be prepared to make a unilateral declaration of independence from Spain, if all other avenues have been exhausted.

Both Spain's ruling conservatives, the Popular Party of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, and the Socialist opposition have long made it clear that they oppose a referendum.

Under the current Spanish constitution, referendums can only be called by the national government in Madrid, not by the governments of Spain's 17 autonomous communities, of which Catalonia is one, the BBC's Tom Burridge reports from Madrid.

Mr Mas has said that "there is time to comply with laws and democratic processes".

But for that to happen, Spain's national parliament would need to approve a change in the Spanish constitution before next November, and that looks impossible given the opposition in Madrid, our correspondent adds.

Catalonia is one of Spain's most developed regions, with a population of 7.5 million.

It already has a wide degree of autonomy but the recent economic crisis has fuelled Catalan nationalism.

In September supporters of independence formed a human chain across the region.

Mr Mas has previously said that if Madrid blocks a referendum, he will turn regional elections - due in 2016 - into a vote on independence.

Opinion polls suggest Catalans are evenly split over independence.

The EU and Nato have warned that Catalonia would be excluded if it broke away from Spain.

Nationalists in another Spanish region, the Basque Country, won regional elections there last year.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 358.


    'A popular movement'? Not so fast. A noisy movement to be sure. Opinion has been 'nurtured' for close on 30 years by successive - non indepenentista - CiU governments. CiU is everywhere in political and social life in Catalonia and we are now paying the price. Independence was not even on the map when the constitution was drawn up.

  • rate this

    Comment number 357.

    #352 my thoughts exactly. If teachers and children in Catalan schools taught the consequences of separatist actions (remember Yugoslavia?) maybe they'll realise that it's better to remain within Spain and the EU. I'm in favour of self-government within the limits of the law. I'm against starting a war for the sake of a collective daydream that definitely won't solve any of their problems.

  • rate this

    Comment number 356.

    "Scotland also needs to understand this.
    Separatism is back to the dark ages."

    It all depends what you're sepataing from...and where you're heading.
    Obviously Catalunya wants to separate from the anti-Spanish Goldmansachs govt,whereas Scotland wants to leave GoldmanSachs toryland.
    Scotland is right.
    Catalunya is deluded - they should unite with the SPANISH and force change as a nation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 355.

    @348 Swiss law is largely based on the Code Napoléon.

    The Constitution of Ticino dates from 1830 (though amended as recently as 1999). Ticino didn't formally join the Swiss Confederation, until 20 years later, when it joined the Swiss Franc, although it had effectively been a member since 1803. See the parallels? Didn't join the currency?

  • rate this

    Comment number 354.

    aha , a bandwagon appears to have been brought on , no wonder the Spanish Leader isnt sure about an Independent Scotland in the EU , his Catalan " friends" may want to join also

  • rate this

    Comment number 353.

    @347 Agreed. But do you really see the youth of today joining mass demos or protesting like I can recall doing over Apartheid? Or the Miners Strikes in the 1980s? Or the anti fascist marches?
    A few tweets will not do it. Nor will thousands of petitions.
    We have to hit the streets to show what we want and what we mean.

  • rate this

    Comment number 352.

    Time for Spain (Catalonia) to grow up. The Civil War has to be learnt from and selfish interest put aside. A united Spain in a united Europe is the only way forward.
    Scotland also needs to understand this and not be misled by a few egoistic career minded politicians.
    Separatism is back to the dark ages.

  • rate this

    Comment number 351.


    There are many reasons not to want independence. Here's a given: Every single multinational company currently operating in EU Catalonia will move operations elsewhere if it becomes independent and as a result, not part of the EU. Can you imagine Volkswagen (or any other multinational) keeping their factories/jobs in Catalonia? Many other Spain dependentcompanies will do the same

  • Comment number 350.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 349.

    "I take it you don't know London then?
    Oh MrWobbles, I do know London so well, having been born there and spending 20 years of my life seeing the poverty,squalor and hopelessness just behind the tourist attractions.
    Barcelona's a port. It's not a country. Olives and tourism do not feed a region, nor do tax breaks. It'd have tobecome a Tax Haven,and the catalan people would lose out.

  • rate this

    Comment number 348.

    @ 337 whatever. The result is the same. Ticino is utterly subservient to Swiss law which in itself has the largest remnants of mediaeval law within the landmass of Europe.
    Sovereignty is subjective and as you say the federal gov't didn't actually do that well did it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 347.

    329. Katz_in_Bedford
    how do we achieve reform like that as ordinary citizens?
    The same way our forebears won us the rights we take for granted. By demanding it. By protesting. By fighting if necessary, to the death.

    343. biggles
    If national elections represented the wishes of minority regions there would be no need for Catalan/Scottish independence. Tories only got 1.7% of the Scottish vote.

  • rate this

    Comment number 346.

    Let's remember the circumstances the constitution was written under, please. There was a lack of stability, and the army wielded a lot of power - remember there was a failed coup d'etat in 1981. Also, what is the meaning of a piece of paper, when common sense dictates this is a popular movement. If Catalonia wants to be independent, maybe Spain should accept that fact.

  • rate this

    Comment number 345.

    Boggles, people aren't stupid, they just don't buy the argument. It is nothing special, just a bunch of folks saying "you need our permission to be independent. That is our law."

    We all heard it in the Baltic states, from the USSR, and indeed Tibetans hear the same thing from their Chinese overlords.

    Explaining that you are the overlord is less convincing than it might sound to you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 344.

    @ 127 Cadishead_67

    What do we give? OECD says $13.66bn development aid (2nd only to the USA). What does Spain give? $1.95bn! The significant trade deficit the UK has with the EU, mainly in goods, shows that the EU also has a vested interest in continuing trade relations with the UK, whatever we decide.

  • rate this

    Comment number 343.

    I'm a Spaniard, I'll try to put some sense. According to the 1978 Constitution, approved by all Spaniards (incl. Catalans), national sovereignty resides in the whole of Spain. That means if Catalonia wants to secede, it has to be approved by all Spaniards, Catalans and not-Catalans. Anything else is against the law. And let's stop saying we're all Francoists. He died 40 years ago. We've moved on.

  • rate this

    Comment number 342.

    Fine, but in the majority of elections (local, national or EU), the only candidates standing are from the main old parties with very few alternatives - party or independents.

    In such circumstances, how do you suggest people vote?

    I feel very strongly about exercising my franchise but find it increasingly difficult to do so with such little real choice.

  • rate this

    Comment number 341.

    Why a lot of people here comments about Franco? If you defense Merkel, are you a nazi? The only autocracy here is Catalonia (you have forbidden put the sign in a shop in spanish, it is until 1 million of euro nice; it is incredible but truth).Basque Country is a democracy too, terrorists killed thousands of lifes and now they are in the govern and terrorists at home... The truth hurts!

  • rate this

    Comment number 340.

    It all starts with speeches, marches and referendums, but it wouldn't surprise me if in a few years this spiraled into Spanish civil war part 2. Europeans just can't seem to stop fighting against each other.

  • rate this

    Comment number 339.

    Artur mas will go down in history as a buffoon who thought he was the Messiah. He lost the plot by calling early elections, lost a lot of parliamentary seats as a result and had to hop into bed with ERC to stop things from collapsing completely. He pushed his own party to breaking point and now we have the tail (ERC) wagging the dog (CiU). Few are taking him seriously now.


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