Monday, 4 May 2015

Catalonia is not Scotland

The opinion poll reported in Sunday's La Vanguardia, the leading Catalan newspaper, shows that we are far from Scotland.

The picture in Catalonia is of politics shattered, with no clear support for independence and no single leading party. The main issues driving voters are the economic crisis and unemployment (selected by two thirds of voters), and political corruption (48%). Independence is identified as the main issue by only one third (34%) of voters.

If the vote were held today it would result in a coalition on steroids, with the current Government (a coalition of two parties, CiU and ERC) requiring a third and possibly fourth partner to hold together. New parties are gaining ground both on the left (Podem, with 6% of the electorate) and on the right (Ciutadans, with 19%). Both have captured supporters from traditional parties scarred by corruption. In Scotland one party has managed to channel the dreams and the protests of the people; in Catalonia there are three, none of which are capable of attracting more than 20% of the vote.

In Scotland it was Glasgow and Dundee that voted Yes. In Catalonia that picture of urban radicalism is reversed - it is the countryside north of Barcelona that is the hot seat of nationalism. Voters in the Pyrenees and the farming areas around Girona give a clear majority (64% of votes) to nationalist parties. But Barcelona carries the largest population, and it is there that the many smaller parties of right and left are growing fast.

Having been refused a referendum by Madrid, Artur Mas, leader of CiU, is planning a "plebiscite election" in September 2015. Yesterday's poll could dissuade him from that track. 

And the similarity? In any likely scenario we get a coalition. We have years of experience of coalition governments in Madrid, in Catalonia and in town halls across the land. They seem to work as well, and as badly, as any other form of government. Certainly not the "biggest constitutional crisis since the abdication." (In our case that would be Alfonso XIII, who abdicated in 1931, resulting eventually in a fascist dictatorship. So, really, quite a crisis).

Catalonia is not Spain. It is also not Scotland, yet.

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