The news: First, the Catalan National Assembly collected roughly 235,000 signatures over the course of two days in support for the region’s growing independence movement. And then on Thursday, January 16, Catalonia’s parliament voted to hold a referendum on independence from Spain.
There is a strong cultural identity in Catalonia that is driving the region’s call for secession. That, coupled with Spain’s economic woes, have the independence movement is in full swing.
But don’t expect a new European nation to come from this. Catalonia can request a referendum all it wants, but it means nothing unless the Spanish government allows it. And Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has given an emphatic “No” to Catalan independence.
“As long as I am prime minister of Spain’s government there will not be independence for any Spanish territory,” Rajoy told reporters on January 20. He made it clear that Catalonia’s referendum “won’t take place.”
Still, that won’t stop Catalonia from wanting independence. Polls have support for secession from Spain above 50%, and the Catalan National Assembly has plans for another signature drive in March.
Catalans look to another European country as a model for their independence movement: Scotland, which will hold a referendum on independence later this year with British approval.
Scotland will vote on whether or not to leave the United Kingdom with a simple poll question: “Should Scotland be an independent country?” Though there is an anti-independence campaign in the UK, the Scottish National Party has a majority in its parliament and the independence movement is moving forward.
Catalonia wishes it were as lucky. Spain seems committed to holding onto its wealthiest region, especially at a time when the country’s economy is on shaky ground. So for now it remains a stalemate: the Catalan independence movement remains as strong as Spain’s rejection of it.