Catalonian independence: All eyes on Scotland

Ivano Frankivsk backs independence for Scotland and Catalonia as well as the Ukraine split from Russian dominance. Picture: Ben Lowry

Ivano Frankivsk backs independence for Scotland and Catalonia as well as the Ukraine split from Russian dominance. Picture: Ben Lowry

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The people of Catalonia were watching the Sottish independence vote, Ben Lowry found when asking them about their own referendum

Madrid’s refusal to grant a referendum on independence in Catalonia may have given separatists a crucial shot in the arm.

In different parts of the region, residents told The Scotsman that the refusal to recognise Sunday’s poll had pushed them to support a split from Spain.

Martha Cairo, 40, in Figueres, said that she had hesitated on independence a year ago, but now backed it.

“They should have let us choose. Maybe it is a rebel thing, but it has made people like me who did not have a position take a position.

“Scotland was fantastic, at least David Cameron let people decide.”

Martha added: “My parents and grandparents did not have this chance under Franco.”

But John Grau, who works in a jewellery shop in the northern Catalan town, rejected the comparison with Scotland.

“It is a different country, we are a Spanish region. I am 70 years old and I have no time to make a new country.”

Mr Grau remembers Franco’s dictatorship, which ended in 1975.

“Spain needs more years to be a democracy, like England with more than 300 years.”

Xavi Busquets, 35, a photographer from Figueres, played down the comparison with Scotland.

“The question is the same, independence yes or no, but the context is not the same. There are other circumstances.”

Xavi, who like most people in the area speaks both Spanish and Catalan fluently, supports independence.

“Catalonia is a rich, productive part of Spain. We are paying for the poor parts of Spain,” he says.

Claudia Cobos, a 17-year-old school pupil, was unaware of the Scottish vote and is unsure about independence.

“I feel Catalan,” she says but adds: “The economy is not the only thing.”

Ainhoa Gil, 28, from Tudela in the Basque country, now living in Barcleona, is an emphatic supporter of independence for both her home region and Catalonia.

She watched the Scottish referendum closely, and was refreshing her internet browser all night for the results.

“If Scotland said yes, it is our way for independence. Now it is more difficult. I cried in the morning of the result.”

Ainhoa says: “I don’t feel Spanish. I want independence for Catalonia, but I feel more strongly for my own country, obviously. The Basque language is more different from Spanish, with no Latin.”

Ivano Frankivsk, a 21-year-old immigrant from Urkaine living in Figueres, supports three splits: Ukraine from Russian dominance, Catalonia from Spain and Scotland from the UK.

“Scotland needs to trade with the rest of Britain, but be independent. It is the same with Catalonia,” he says.

But he has no vote, and his big concern is his current lack of a job.

In the affluent resort of Sitges, in southern Catalonia, the oldest and youngest of three generations of one family are pro independence while the middle generation is not.

Felisa Masana, 59, who has a beauty shop, supports separation from Spain, while her daughter, Alexandra Ortal, 39, opposes it.

Alexandra’s daughter, also called Alexandra (Cuesta), 19, backs independence, like her grandmother.

Felisa, who remembers Franco, says: “It is not right that we can’t vote. If we had been allowed a vote, I probably would have voted to stay with Spain.

“The British government was clever to let Scotland vote.”

Felisa speaks Spanish and Catalan but would not be sad at a split. “We could go to Spain on trips.”

Her daughter Alexandra, who has a clothes shop, is not a separatist.

“I think we have to stay together, we are better together. I am against borders.”

The younger Alexandra, a student, says: “I would say I want it to be independent, not just a state.”

She followed the Scottish vote on Twitter - “everyone was talking about it” - but her mother was unaware of the vote.

Paulo Martini, a teacher from Tuscany who has retired to Sitges aged 58, says: “I watched the Scottish vote very much, because of the repercussions here.

“I think it is crazy, all these countries breaking up, it is like something of the Middle Ages. They should speak about real federalism, like Switzerland or Germany or the United States.

I was very happy - five times very - when Scotland stayed.”

On the train between Figueres and Barcelona, some non-Catalan Spaniards were adamantly opposed to separation.

A woman named Vega, from Salamanca, said: “I don’t like this, Catalonia is Spanish.”

A man from Zaragoza said: “It is a decision for all of Spain.”

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