Legal challenge to vote could boost support for Scottish separation, says Catalan independence leaderONE of the leading members of the Catalan independence movement has argued that a legal challenge to a referendum organised by the Scottish Government could tip the balance in favour of separation.
Speaking to The Scotsman after the launch of his book What Catalans Want, Toni Strubell identified an intervention by the Spanish supreme court in 2005 blocking new devolved powers as one of the main causes for a massive increase in popularity for independence in the region.
Mr Strubell, 59, was born in Oxford to Catalan parents because his grandfather fled Spain after General Franco took control of the country in the 1930s. He is now a senior member of the Catalan Coalition for Independence and a member of the region’s parliament where there is a majority in favour of either independence or more powers for Catalonia.
He argued that the increase in support for pro-separation parties in last year’s regional election – and the unionist centre right Popular Party’s simultaneous decline in the region – was largely down to the court ruling.
“Sometimes some of the actions of those who oppose you are not unhelpful,” he said, referring to the increase in support. “This could be the same if the [British] courts were to intervene in a similar way.”
His comments come at a crucial point in what happens to the independence referendum for Scotland. Currently, the SNP Scottish Government believes it has a mandate to hold the referendum because of the majority victory by Alex Salmond’s party in May’s Holyrood election.
But there are concerns that because the legal powers for a referendum lie with Westminster there could be a legal challenge over the Scottish parliament’s authority to even call an advisory poll into an area for which it does not have constitutional responsibility.
Recently, Professor Adam Tomkins, a leading UK expert on public law, advised the Commons Scottish affairs select committee that any poll on independence by the Scottish Government could be subject to a successful legal challenge because it would be outside its powers.
The committee is holding an inquiry into the mechanisms needed for a referendum in what many see as a pre-emptive move in an attempt to get the UK government to call it instead. It is understood the coalition is waiting to see what the new Scottish Labour leader wants to do before making a move.
However, Mr Strubell also warned Nationalists in Scotland that there are differences between the two nations which may mean that support for independence north of the Border is not as great as it is in Catalonia.
Catalonia was unified with Spain through military conquest in 1714 and endured oppression even in recent history under General Franco.
“In contrast, Scotland has existed in a much more democratic environment where it has not been oppressed in the same way,” he said.
“Scotland’s relationship with the UK is in a very different environment to the one we are in.”
But he added that Catalan separatists had “drawn inspiration” from the SNP’s victory in May and said the countries should “work together”.