Why Catalan Secession Trumps Scots' Case

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in at 10/10/2014 01:30:00 AM
90,000 at the Nou Camp (and counting) support secession.
Here we go again: the Catalans have scheduled a referendum on remaining in Spain on November 9. However, there is a rather large complication in that the central government in Madrid does not recognize this referendum and would not even consider an outcome that tilts toward secession. So, the stage is set for another secessionist movement. More so than the question of Scottish independence, this one may have greater implications for the fate of the EU. For one thing, Catalunya is the wealthiest region in the country. For another, also consider that Spain is actually in the eurozone and things could get ugly real soon:
The Catalonian independence movement has been gathering strength for many years. But right now, it appears to have reached a tipping point. Following the Scottish vote, the regional government of Catalonia set its own independence referendum for Nov. 9. The question will be very simple. Do you want to remain a part of Spain or not?

The trouble is, the Spanish government has flatly rejected the right of Catalans to choose. The constitutional court has rejected the vote, and it remains to be seen whether it goes ahead. If it does, and Catalans vote yes, it will be hard to resist granting its independence. After all, the days when people were forced to remain in a state against their democratic will are meant to be long behind us. 
While Scotland would have been less viable on its own, prospects are rather better for an independent Catalunya. Instead of being a net beneficiary of being inside the UK like Scotland, most calculations suggest Catalunya subsidizes the rest of Spain:
It would have a gross domestic product of $314 billion, according to calculations by the OECD, which would make it the 34th largest economy in the world. That would make it bigger than Portugal or Hong Kong, which are perfectly viable by themselves. Its GDP per capita would be $35,000, which would make it wealthier than South Korea, Israel or Italy. There is nothing for anyone to be afraid of there...

For all the nationalist rhetoric, Scotland had relatively little to gain from independence. The U.K. is a relatively successful economy, and while Scotland has been doing reasonably well, it has an aging population and faces declining oil revenues. It was subsidized by the larger country it was part of, and was likely to become more dependent on it as time passed.

Although the numbers are hotly debated, there is plenty of evidence that a wealthy Catalonia subsidizes the rest of Spain. Worse, Spain itself is locked into a dysfunctional currency union, which, despite a minor upturn this year, offers little apart from grinding recession, mass unemployment and rising debt.
In a past post, I've discussed the politics of football: Barcelona FC as a rallying point for Catalan independence and Real Madrid as one for the concentration of power in the Spanish capital. Given the importance of football politics to life in Spain, the threat of expulsion from La Liga of the world's second most valuable football club (after Real Madrid) may be the thing that ironically keeps Catalunya in Spain:
The president of La Liga said today that Catalan clubs like Barcelona and Espanyol would be excluded from Spain's top tier should the region succeed in its push for independence from Spain. Javier Tebas said the country's sports law entitles only one non-Spanish territory - Andorra - to legally participate in the league or other official competitions.