Catalonia may hold its indy referendum before Scotland

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  By a Newsnet reporter

The ERC, the second party in the pro-independence coalition governing Catalonia, is urging its coalition partners the CiU to bring forward the date of Catalonia’s independence referendum.

Speaking to Catalan Radio on Friday morning, Oriol Junqueras, leader of the ERC, said that the Catalan referendum had to be held “urgently”, suggesting it be brought forward to 2013.

Highlighting the “precarious” situation of the Catalan health and education systems, Mr Junqueras said:  “The 18th of September … does not have to be our date for the ballot, it has to be before that.  Our situation is desperate.”  

He added:  “It’s possible to hold the ballot in 2013, because it’s urgent.  The future of Catalonia has to be in the hands of the citizens of Catalonia, and not at the feet of the Spanish horses.”

The announcement that Scotland will celebrate its referendum on the 18th of September 2014 has set off a euphoric reaction amongst Catalan independence activists.  In a tweet, Mr Junqueras congratulated Scots, saying:

“Scotland has now made a date with democracy.  Congratulations and good luck; we also can do it, and better soon.”  

The ERC is now putting pressure on Artur Mas, leader of the CiU and president of the Catalan government, to bring forward the date of Catalonia’s referendum.  However the CiU is resisting pressure to give an exact date, although many believe that Catalonia’s national day, La Diada (September 11), is the most likely time to hold the ballot.  During a march for independence on La Diada last year, one and a half million Catalans took to the streets of Barcelona demanding a Catalan state.

Meanwhile the minor pro-independence party Candidatura d’Unitat Popular has compared the setting out of Scotland’s referendum date with a lack of progress in Catalonia.  Mr Quim Arrufat, a CUP member of the Catalan parliament, said in a tweet:  “In Scotland they have a date for the independence referendum.  Here we have photos and declarations.”   

According to the accord between Catalonia’s pro-independence parties, the ballot must be held before the end of 2014.  If the Catalans hold their referendum on September 11 2014, which many observers believe is the date preferred by Mr Mas, a successful outcome for the Catalan independence campaign may have an effect on the Scottish referendum one week later.  

This may well have figured in the SNP’s calculations when the Scottish government decided on 18th September 2014 as the date for Scotland’s historic vote. Some Scots who are undecided about independence may be encouraged by a successful vote in Catalonia just a few days before Scotland goes to the polls.

According to recent opinion polls, an absolute majority of Catalan are in favour of independence, with independence supporters outnumbering the combined total of those against and those who have yet to make up their minds.

Meanwhile, Artur Mas, leader of the CiU and president of Catalonia, has said that he feels envious of Scotland’s progress towards a legal and recognised referendum.  The Madrid government continues to resist any moves from Catalonia to hold an independence referendum, saying that it would be illegal and contrary to the Spanish constitution.  Nevertheless, the Catalan parliament insists that it will go ahead with the ballot.