Catalonia and Madrid on collision course over independence referendum

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  By a Newsnet reporter
 
The decision today by Catalonia’s President to formally call a referendum has set Spain’s richest region on a collision course with Madrid.
 
The Spanish government has said it will appeal to the Constitutional Court after Catalan leader Artur Mas signed a decree to hold a referendum on independence on November 9th.

“We want to vote” said the Catalan President. “If they think in Madrid that by using legal frameworks they can stop the will of the Catalan people, they are wrong,”

Mas signed the decree in a ceremony at the Generalitat Palace in Barcelona.  However the Spanish Government insist any such referendum would be illegal as the Spanish constitution says Spain is indisolluble.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has said his Government will take action to ensure the vote does not go ahead.  Rajoy’s Government will meet on Monday where it is expected to lodge an objection with the Spanish Constitutional Court, which would officially trigger a suspension of the referendum.

Artur Mas has said local laws could be used in order to circumvent the blocking move.  He has also hinted that Madrid’s opposition could force early regional elections in Catalonia which would effectively act as a plebiscite on the independence issue.

Catalonians have been closely observing the situation in Scotland where the campaign against independence won a historic ballot by 55% to 45%.  The referendum was held after an agreement between the Edinburgh and London Governments which was signed by First Minister Alex Salmond and Prime Minister David Cameron.

The 45% garnered by the Scottish Yes campaign is significantly higher than early polls indicated.  In Catalonia support for independence has been much greater with surveys indicating a clear majority in favour.

If Catalans are allowed to express their will in a ballot and a Yes to independence results, then pressure will mount on the Madrid government to recognised the free democratic expression.  A newly independent Catalonia will test many of the so-called scare stories relating to the EU and NATO which were prominent during the Scottish independence campaign.