Nicola Sturgeon silenced as Boris Johnson has asset Spain never did in Catalonia chaos
Sturgeon discusses future of country at the Scottish Parliament
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Scotland’s First Minister Ms Sturgeon has renewed her calls for a second independence referendum, known as Indyref2, following the Holyrood election earlier this month. She claims that the Scots have provided a “mandate” for another referendum after electing a narrow majority of pro-independence MSPs to Holyrood. Although the Scottish National Party, the SNP, have to rely on the support of the eight seats held by the pro-independence Green Party for their argument, Ms Sturgeon has said it is “the will of the Scottish people” to hit the ballot boxes again.
The SNP’s determination to split from the UK has been compared to that of Catalonia, a region of Spain that has been campaigning for independence for years.
It even declared itself independent from Madrid in October 2017, after holding an illegal referendum on breaking away from Spain but the announcement was not recognised internationally.
While 92 percent of those who voted supported leaving Spain, there was a turnout of just 43 percent as Madrid had already denounced the vote as unconstitutional and ordered the police to deter it.
The resulting fallout led to “one of the worst political crises in modern Spanish history” with Spanish national police raiding Catalan government headquarters, according to the Financial Times.
Demonstrations have continued in the years since the 2017 vote but are said to be mainly peaceful.
Still, the comparisons between Scotland and Catalonia have grown in recent weeks, especially after Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it would be “irresponsible and reckless” to hold Indyref2 despite Ms Sturgeon’s request.
However, journalist Mark Nayler suggested it was “unlikely” that Scotland’s bid for a referendum would trigger a similar dilemma as Catalonia’s.
Writing in Foreign Policy, he pointed out: “It seems unlikely that the UK’s constitutional crisis could become so heated, mainly because Johnson has a tool at his disposal that [Spanish Prime Minister] Pedro Sanchez does not.
“In the UK, unlike in Spain, there is the aforementioned precedent of a governmentally sanctioned referendum on independence, possible under the Scotland Act 1998.”
This is a stark contrast to Catalonia’s situation, as Mr Nayler noted: “The 1978 Spanish Constitution, on the other hand, stresses the ‘indissoluble unity of the Spanish Nation, the common and indivisible homeland of all Spaniards’.”
The Scotland Act was used to pass constitutional powers from Downing Street to Holyrood back in 2014, when the electorate were lawfully permitted to head to the ballot box and vote on independence.
It was hailed as a “once-in-a-generation” opportunity for Scots.
So, when 55 percent of voters chose to remain in the UK — while 45 percent wanted to leave — it temporarily put the matter of independence to bed.
Although Ms Sturgeon has since alleged that Scotland’s Remain majority in the EU referendum means Brexit has shifted opinions, Mr Johnson has repeatedly fallen back on the 2014 vote to explain why Indyref2 should not go ahead.
He noted that there had been a ballot on the issue “only a few years ago”.
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He continued: “I think what most people want is to focus on the country and taking it forward and rebuilding our economy and getting people into work.
“That seems to me to be the priority.”
The pandemic has also played a crucial role in the ongoing debate around independence.
As Mr Johnson said: “I think there’s been an eloquent testimonial during the pandemic to the power of the union.”
Scotland: Catalonia would support them in joining EU says expert
For now, Ms Sturgeon has pledged to “steer the country through the crisis of Covid and then, when the time is right, to offer this country the choice of a better future”.
But, as she told Channel 4 News: “If Boris Johnson wants to stop that he would have to go to court.”
Ms Sturgeon also told ITV News before the Holyrood election that she is feeling “quietly confident” that Scotland could hold another referendum in the next five years.
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