Catalonia deserves a legal, government-sanctioned referendum on independence from the Spanish state.
Unlike Scotland, Catalonia has an active and thriving language. Unlike Scotalnd, Catalonia contributes disproportionately to the economic performance of Spain. Unlike Scotland, Catalonia hasn’t yet had the chance to decide on its future.
A legal referendum is a risk for the Spanish government that much is true. It was a great risk that Cameron took in sanctioning the 2014 Scottish Independence vote and yet it was a necessary one. The moment that a government stops being responsive to the wills on a very sizeable chunk of the populous is the moment democracies start to darken. Sensitivity to popular sentiments is a key feature of liberal democracy because as we know being ‘out of touch’ can be a very slippery slope.
The current approach of halting people at the ballot box, arresting democratically elected representatives and harassing Catalans seems bound to fail. If anything, this approach could in fact yield unintended consequences and turn ‘remainers’ around to the cause of separation.
This is a wholly undesirable option. The unity of states and the emergence of supranational bodies have presided over one of the most peaceful epochs in human history. Long may this continue but not at the expense of decency.
By Peter R. Jacobs