Spain and the United Kingdom could find themselves in the second half of 2021 in an even situation, in what affects the unity of their states, if, as the polls predict, the Scottish National Party (SNP) wins the regional elections on May 6 and a majority in the Parliament of Edinburgh is formed in favor of calling a referendum on independence.
The nationalist movements in the two regions maintain relations of solidarity, but never before have they lived a time of such synchronicity as the one that would occur if they govern with the same eagerness and also faced with the rejection of the governments of London and Madrid to grant the celebration of the referendum. The analogies are, however, elusive.
Neither the leader, Nicola Sturgeon, nor the SNP, have published comments on the outcome of Sunday’s elections in Catalonia. The silence can be explained by the desire to prevent voters from associating them with a Catalan movement perceived as more courageous and also to avoid stoking the hostility of the Spanish Government, when they still postulate, after the ‘Brexit’, the return of Scotland to the Union European.
The comments in the press do not encourage fervor. The professor of the University of Aberdeen, Michael Keating, affirms in the ‘Herald’ of Glasgow that the Catalan elections leave “a mess and there is no clear way out”. “We are again at a standstill,” he says. It’s basically 50-50. There has been a small movement towards independence and that gives them a majority of votes and seats.
In “The National”, the independence daily, Michael Fry points out similarities at the moment and speculates about differences in the future, because Carles Puigdemont’s nationalists are pro-capitalist and would be more easily embedded in the EU than the followers of a socializing Sturgeon. The differences of the now already have, however, enough substance.
Unilateral or legal
The polls show a drop in the intention to vote for the SNP in January – perhaps due to the confrontation between Sturgeon and his predecessor, Alex Salmond, who blames the Executive for the accusations of sexual crimes from which he was exonerated by the courts – but the projection is that the party will obtain an absolute majority of more than ten seats in May.
In similar circumstances, the former Conservative Prime Minister, David Cameron, argued that the will of the Scottish voters could not be circumvented and transferred to Salmond the power to call a consultation, in 2014. He won the ‘no’ by 55.3% against 44.7%. Since June 2020, all polls have given victory to ‘yes’, the last by 47% compared to 42%.
But Boris Johnson opposes the new consultation, recalling that the 2014 one was presented as a decision for a generation and taking refuge in the example of ‘Brexit’. The departure of the EU was decided in 2016, revoking the result of the referendum confirming access to the then European Economic Community, in 1975.
Two university professors, Judith Sijstermans and Coreen Brown Swan, have analyzed the differences between the fiery solidarity expressed to the Catalan independence movement by the Flemish party, N-VA, and the more cautious support of the SNP. Both Salmond and Sturgeon have rejected the possibility of illegal referendums, which would not gain domestic or international recognition.
The chief minister will present, however, in the coming days, a bill to convene the consultation. I would submit it to the new Parliament in Edinburgh after the elections. The presentation of the bill supports the demand of a group of independentistas to the highest Scottish court to recognize that constitutional history allows the Scottish assembly to call the referendum.