Could Catalonia declare independence quickly?
By Joe Harker
The Catalan independence referendum has prompted a repressive response from the Spanish government, who sent police in to stop people voting in the illegal referendum and injured many people. Around 90 per cent of people voted for independence according to officials, so there is a huge wave of popular support for breaking away from Spain despite the lack of legal basis. It is difficult to see how to reconcile the two sides after the events of the referendum.
Catalan President Carles Puigdemont has said that he will push on with independence, and accused King Felipe of Spain of being a mouthpiece of the government. Puigdemont said the people of Catalonia were "united as never before" after the referendum. King Felipe had said that the referendum was attempting to "break the unity of Spain" and insisted that Catalan independence would threaten economic stability. Catalonia is one of the most prosperous regions in Spain and makes significant contributions towards the rest of the nation.
The Catalan parliament has been suspended by the Spanish government as a declaration of independence is scheduled to be made on Monday October 9. President Puigdemont has outlined his intentions to declare independence "in a matter of days" but will find it difficult as the Spanish government is completely unwilling to entertain the prospect of independence. There are ongoing arguments about the legality of the referendum and Spain is insisting that there is nothing to declare.
The Independent reports that "hundreds of soldiers" have been dispatched to Catalonia to ensure that independence is not declared on Monday. The soldiers have served in Iraq and Afghanistan and are some of Spain's most experienced troops. They are there to aid the 10,000 police officers already deployed to the region to stop the referendum. Catalonians see the police and military as an "occupying force" and insist that their presence won't prevent independence.
Indeed, some suggest that Spain's swift and brutal response will make independence the only option in the eyes of many Catalonians. Sending the police in to prevent citizens from making it to the ballot box appears to have made the Spanish government look like a repressive force that Catalonia is better off without. Instead, it may have been better if Spain had engaged with those who pushed for independence and presented an effective case for staying together. As long as the response to independence is police and military intervention the battle for hearts and minds is lost.