David Maddox: Catalan election significant for UK

THE CATALAN election could be a significant moment for Scotland and the UK, writes David Maddox

People wave Catalan flags, known as the Estelada flag, during a pro-independence rally on September 11th. Picture: AP

Recent history has made 11 September a highly charged day in the political calendar, but long before the Twin Towers were attacked in New York on that dreadful day in 2001, the date had a significance. It marked an important moment in the history of Europe which could be the cause of a crisis which will have serious repercussions.

On 11 September, 1714, the Spanish army was victorious in the Siege of Barcelona ending Catalonia’s independence. While Catalonia has remained part of Spain ever since, the date has become the region’s national day and the Catalan identity and language has not been forgotten.

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Last week it was marked in the shadow of parliament in Westminster with a stylish event organised by the Catalan Delegation in London. However, the gathering could herald something much greater which will make people in Westminster sit up and take notice.

On 27 September, Catalans will vote in their regional election. If the Yes Coalition for independence wins, then the new Catalan government will press the Madrid government for an official independence referendum. The unofficial one which produced an overwhelming Yes vote last year was ignored by Madrid. If an official referendum is refused, then there is a strong chance Catalonia will unilaterally declare independence.

Such a move will have enormous repercussions in Europe and this country. Spain and countries with separatist movements like Italy and Romania will ensure Catalonia is not recognised and not allowed into the EU. But what will happen if Madrid sends in the military? Will Europe stand by?

The other issue is how the UK and Scottish governments will react. David Cameron will be looking for support from Spain for his renegotiation of the UK’s terms of membership of the EU. He will also not want a precedent to be set which could see Nicola Sturgeon doing the same for Scotland. But the Gibraltar question could be dragged into the row.

Meanwhile, would Ms Sturgeon and the SNP show solidarity with the Catalans? Could they follow suit having been given a referendum and failed to get a mandate? Certainly the old fundamentalist wing of the SNP will push for UDI if a second referendum is not granted. During the Scottish independence referendum, Alex Salmond and the SNP abandoned their old solidarity with the Catalans. This was almost certainly done to get Spanish support for Scotland to join the EU, which drove the change of heart.

Victory is far from assured yet for the Catalan independence campaign, but events in Barcelona this month could shape the fate of Europe, the UK and Scotland for years to come.