Catalonia: What’s going on?

On a recent visit to Catalonia, Women for Independence activist Carolyn Leckie addressed a number of public meetings, gave media interviews and met leading figures in the struggle for Catalan self-determination. This included four political parties, several trade union leaders and the President of the Catalan National Assembly. Here she speaks to Restless Land about her impressions of the growing conflict between Madrid and Barcelona.

RL We’ve been getting some confusing reports in the Scottish and UK media about Catalonia. So what exactly is going on over there?

CL I thought I knew a bit about Catalonia, but the first thing I learned as soon I arrived was that most people in Scotland don’t really know what’s going on. When I left, people asked me: ‘Why are you still going? Catalonia has cancelled its referendum.”

The real position, I soon discovered, is more complicated. Polls show that there is now a clear majority for an independent republic. But the Madrid government has always been terrified of losing Catalonia, and the Spanish constitution prohibits the break-up of the state.

So when Artur Mas, the president of the Catalan devolved government, declared a referendum for 9 November, it was pretty much inevitable that the Spanish judges would declare it illegal. So Mas, under pressure from two sides – the mass movement for a Catalan republic on the one side, and the Madrid government and judicial system on the other – decided to go ahead with a consultative referendum.

The people and parties I met all supported this move, because although it would have no legal force, it could show the world the scale of support for independence, and thus escalate pressure on the Spanish state. Over 30,000 volunteers were signed up to organise the plebiscite, and all the signs were pointing to massive turnout.

But even this compromise seems too much for the Spanish state to stomach. In the past few days, even that public consultation has also been declared illegal. Things are highly volatile and the situation is changing by the day. But at this stage, it appears that the Catalan parties are determined to go ahead with this consultative vote.

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