Brexit: fresh calls for Catalan vote on secession from Spain

Catalan separatists on Friday intensified their calls for a referendum on breaking away from Spain after Britain voted to leave the European Union and Scotland said another independence vote was likely.

Brexit: fresh calls for Catalan vote on secession from Spain
Separatists in the northeastern Spanish region of Catalonia have for years lobbied for an independence referendum. Photo: AFP

“While Scotland prepares to discuss a second referendum with the EU, we should say without fear that the time for OUR referendum has also arrived,” Mr Jordi Sanchez, president of the Catalan National Assembly, a pro-independence organisation, tweeted.

Separatists in the northeastern Spanish region of Catalonia have for years lobbied for an independence referendum like the one held in Scotland in 2014, which resulted in a vote to remain in the United Kingdom.

Earlier on Friday, Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said a second independence vote was “on the table” after Britain voted by a narrow margin in a referendum to leave the European Union.

While the vote was close across Britain, Scotland “clearly and decisively voted to remain part of the European Union, 62 to 38 (per cent)”, she told the BBC.

The head of the pro-independence government of Catalonia, Mr Carles Puigdemont – one of the few Spanish politicians to be critical of the “Remain” campaign in Britain – praised the British referendum.

“Democracy won, because the British people were able to vote,” he said after the results of the Brexit vote were announced.

Spain is going to the polls on Sunday in a repeat general election following an inconclusive December vote in which no party gained a majority.

The issue of whether to allow Catalonia to hold a referendum on independence was one of the stumbling blocks preventing parties from forming a subsequent coalition government.

New anti-austerity party Podemos backs a referendum, which is fiercely opposed by the Socialist party, its natural ally, as well as the two other main parties, the conservative Popular Party (PP) and upstart Ciudadanos.

Catalonia in November 2014 held a symbolic independence vote after Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's PP government blocked it from holding an official referendum.

Over 80 percent voted in favour of independence – but just 2.3 million people out of a total of 6.3 million eligible voters took part in the ballot.

Mr Gabriel Rufian, a left-wing Catalan separatist lawmaker in Spain's national Parliament, praised British Prime Minister David Cameron for allowing Scotland to hold an independence referendum and calling the subsequent EU vote.

“We would love to have a right-wing politician like Cameron who called voters to the polls twice,” he said.


Catalonia’s separatist parliament speaker suspended over corruption charges

The speaker of Catalonia’s parliament was suspended Thursday, two days after a court in the northeastern region of Spain ordered the hardline separatist to stand trial for misdirection of public funds.

Catalonia's separatist parliament speaker suspended over corruption charges

The decision by the assembly’s governing table to temporarily suspend Laura Borràs as both speaker and a lawmaker in the Catalan parliament has fuelled tensions in coalition which governs the region.

It was backed by all the parties with representation on the table, except for her “Together for Catalonia” (JxC) party.

Borràs is accused of awarding contracts worth around €300,000 ($295,000) to a colleague when she headed the Catalan Institute of Letters, a regional body charged with promoting Catalan language and literature.

A top court in Catalonia on Tuesday ordered her to stand trial for malfeasance and forgery.

Public prosecutors are calling for her to be sentenced to six years in jail and to be banned from holding public office for 21 years.

Borràs denies the allegations, arguing they are part of the “judicial persecution” of Catalan separatists.

After she was suspended she repeated these arguments — and lashed out at the other separatist parties which voted in favour of it.

“My suspension only benefits those who have bet on a dirty war, but it also makes complicit those who executed it,” she said.

Borràs belongs to the same party as former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, who fled to Belgium after Catalonia’s failed 2017 independence bid to avoid arrest

Her JxC governs Catalonia in a coalition led by the more moderate ERC party which backed her suspension, as did another smaller separatist formation, the CUP.

She has been speaker of the Catalan parliament since March 2021.