Will Catalonia be another Scotland? A new book tracks the struggle for independence

Raphael Minder's book shows why the struggle for Catalonian independence is only one of the questions Spain faces
September 13, 2017

On 1st October Catalonia’s regional government plans to hold a binding referendum on independence from Spain. There are many parallels between Catalonia and Scotland—their distinctive cultures and institutions, their populations and the relative size to those of their respective polities, their incorporation into those larger states in the early 18th century, their successful industrialisation, and their collections of historical and current grievances (of varying degrees of legitimacy) which have fuelled the rise in nationalist politics. (As in Scotland before its referendum, polls currently show the anti-secession camp 10 points ahead.)

But there are also stark differences. Most notably, unlike Westminster’s uncomplicated assent to an independence referendum in 2014, the government in Madrid is implacably opposed to a vote on independence and Spain’s supreme court has ruled it unconstitutional. An irresistible force is about to meet an immovable object, and the outcome is entirely unpredictable.

Raphael Minder, the New York Times’s Iberian correspondent for the last seven years, provides an admirably clear guide to this complex subject and revealing interviews with its major figures. In addition to the rancour between Madrid and Barcelona, he analyses the effect of the revelations of widespread financial corruption among the political elite in both cities. There is also infighting in the independence camp—a coalition of various parties, unlike the strong central leadership of the SNP. In the larger view, the status of Catalonia is only one aspect of the still unfinished business of creating a stable Spain in the aftermath of the 2008 crash.

The Struggle for Catalonia: Rebel Politics in Spain by Raphael Minder is published by Hurst (£15.99)