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Scotland will hold an independence referendum in 2023. Will Catalonia follow?

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has proposed holding an independence referendum in October 2023, with some politicians in Spain’s autonomous region of Catalonia saying it could boost them in their own quest for self-determination.
Ms Sturgeon said on Tuesday that her Scottish National Party (SNP) was planning to hold a vote, asking the question: ‘Should Scotland be an independent country?’
She also sent a personal email to more than 100,000 SNP workers, which also said: ‘The referendum campaign starts here’.
To legally hold a referendum, the Scottish Parliament would need permission from the UK Supreme Court, which Ms Sturgeon has requested. Alternatively, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson could authorize it himself under Section 30 of Scots Law, which was used by David Cameron to authorize Scotland’s independence referendum in 2014.
Ms Sturgeon said the people of Scotland ‘must have the right to choose’.

“It is then entirely up to the people of Scotland to decide that choice,” Ms Sturgeon said.

“But just trying to block democracy, as Unionist politicians do, just because they fear the verdict of the Scottish people, that’s not democratic, that’s not acceptable and that’s not sustainable.”
“Scottish democracy cannot be a prisoner of Boris Johnson or any other British Prime Minister.”

A spokesman for Mr Johnson said the government would consider Ms Sturgeon’s proposal but the UK should focus on ‘building a stronger economy‘.

Who wants independence, and who doesn’t?

Scotland has a divided population and has for centuries. Religion, independence and football, strongly linked, contribute to this fracture.
Scots who want to stay in the UK – also known as “unionists” – support the British Crown and want Scotland to remain part of the UK.

In Scotland, the main opposition to the SNP and its quest for Scottish sovereignty is the Scottish Conservative Party, led by Douglas Ross.


He, like Mr Johnson, argues the economy is Scotland’s “real” priority at the moment, not another referendum.
“Nicola Sturgeon is doing it again. His eye is off the ball again,” Mr Ross said.
“The real priorities of the Scottish people are on the back burner.
“She will use government time and resources to advance her plan to dismantle the country.
“We will not participate in a fake poll.”
Scots who want independence believe that Scotland is a minority nation dominated by the UK and should rule in its own right.
Glasgow resident Dom McCearney told SBS News that the younger generation felt particularly disconnected from British politics.
“I think a lot of Scots, especially young Scots, feel disconnected from Westminster politics,” Mr McCearney said.
“The Conservatives haven’t had a majority in Scotland for decades, but we continue to have Tory governments imposed on us.

“There’s also a feeling that Scotland is politically different, leaning a bit more to the left than the average voter in the rest of the UK.”

A crowd of football supporters inside a stadium, displaying the Union Jack.

Rangers fans often display the Union Jack at games as a sign of support for the Crown. Credit: Kirk O’Rourke/PA

According to The Mirror’s analysis of voting records between 1983 and 2015, Glasgow – Scotland’s most populous city – is also the UK’s most left-wing city.

If Scottish independence is not based on a question of religion, the country is known for its historical violence between its Catholic and Protestant populations.
The footballing rivalry between Glasgow’s Celtic FC, traditionally associated with the Catholic Church, and Glasgow Rangers FC, traditionally associated with the Protestant religion, is a better illustration of this.

Rangers fans usually wear the Union Jack to show their support for the Crown and their unity with England.

What happened last time, and will this time be different?

In 2014 Scotland held an unsuccessful independence referendum with 55.3% (2,001,926) voting against independence, answering ‘no’ and 44.7% voting for independence, answering ‘yes’ .
But ‘yes’ voters – who often fly flags with the word ‘yes’ – have continued to rally for independence since the referendum, especially after the UK’s exit from Europe (Brexit).
In the last referendum, the majority of Scots wanted to stay in the European Union (EU) and voting for independence would have potentially meant a Scottish exit from the bloc.
Some have criticized the BBC for what they say is biased coverage of the independence movement and the referendum, saying the British outlet has fueled fears around independence, particularly in the context of EU membership .
Two years later, Brexit arrived. While the UK voted to leave the EU 52% to 48%, Scotland voted to stay 62% to 38%.

The SNP says that if Scotland succeeds in gaining independence, it will try to negotiate with the EU to bring the country back into the bloc.

A protester wearing blue and a European Union t-shirt holds a placard outside the Scottish Parliament.

Supporters of the Yes for EU campaign group outside the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood in Edinburgh to protest against Brexit. Credit: Andrew Milligan/AP

What is the link with Catalonia?

The Scottish independence movement and the movement in Catalonia share similarities in their efforts for self-determination, although with some key differences. This includes the fact that the UK previously allowed Scotland to vote and that Spain does not want to leave the EU.

During independence demonstrations in both countries, the Catalan pro-independence flag is often flown alongside the Scottish flag, as a sign of solidarity.

Demonstrators waving flags march down the street.

Pro-Catalan independence protesters march through Edinburgh’s west to the offices of the European Commission. Credit: Ken Jack/Corbis via Getty Images

Similar to Scotland, Catalonia was its own country before seeing its sovereignty taken by a monarchy.

Catalonia’s independence gained traction after Spain’s central courts in 2010 rejected the region’s call to reform its statute of autonomy, which is the agreement of the division of power it shares with Madrid.
As Spain does not operate under a federal system, Catalonia wanted certain powers over how it governs issues such as its language, taxes and judicial system. Former Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero agreed to the reforms, but they were later ruled unconstitutional by Spain’s Constitutional Court.
The decision left many Catalans feeling dominated by Spain’s central courts, regardless of the government in power, and led to a regional coalition government, led by Carles Puigdemont, to hold a referendum on October 1, 2017.
Spain, then led by Mariano Rajoy, declared the referendum illegal before it was held and sent thousands of national police to prevent the vote from taking place.

On election day, Spanish police raided schools where voting was taking place and forcibly prevented civilians from voting. Human rights groups such as Amnesty International have condemned their actions as examples of police brutality.

A sea of ​​protesters marching through the streets of Catalonia, waving flags and placards.

Catalan pro-independence protesters march during a demonstration in Barcelona. Source: PA / Emilio Morenatti/AP

Five years later, the Catalan government still claims to want to organize a new referendum.

Aleix Sarri, international leader of one of the pro-independence parties in the forming coalition, Junts, told SBS News that Scotland’s recent announcement will also spur the Catalan government to push for another referendum.
“Scotland is leading the way for a new wave of self-determination in Europe and will show again that borders are best decided by the ballot box and not by wars, state treaties or marriages centuries ago,” Mr. Sarri said.
“Scotland will again be a mirror of Catalonia’s push for independence and Spain’s repressive tactics.
“[Ms] Sturgeon will not risk prison or exile for organizing a referendum, underlining the democratic depth of the UK compared to Spain which puts the unity of the state above democracy and rights of man.”

The Spanish Supreme Court sentenced nine Catalan political and social figures to nine to thirteen years in prison for their participation in the referendum.

The imprisonment, based on crimes of “sedition”, has been condemned by organizations such as Amnesty International, the World Organization Against Torture and the International Association of Democratic Lawyers.

After the unauthorized referendum, former Catalan government leader Carles Puigdemont fled Spain to Belgium, where he still lives in exile and continues to campaign for Catalan self-determination.