Hundreds of thousands of Catalans were to pack the streets of Barcelona on Thursday to demand the right to vote on a split from Spain, with hopes fuelled by surging support for independence in Scotland.
About half a million of Catalans have signed up to dress in red and yellow, the colours of the Catalan flag, to form a “V” for “vote”, a show of support for the perceived right to decide on their own status beyond Spain.
Catalonia is a wealthy region in Spain’s northeast with its own language and culture.
Its long-standing independence movement has grown significantly over the past decade, exacerbated by Spain’s economic crisis and what many see as a deaf-ears tactic by the Spanish government in Madrid.
The Catalan regional government, which has large degrees of autonomy within Spain, has called a referendum on Nov. 9 over whether to separate. But the Madrid government says the vote is illegal and cannot go ahead.
Next week’s referendum in Scotland on whether it should split from the United Kingdom has added fervor to the independence campaign in Catalonia.
Although the government in London opposes Scottish independence, it authorised it and says it will abide by the voters’ decision.
“We want to decide our future. We don’t understand why that is constantly denied. We look up to Scotland,” said Victor Panyella, a 50-year-old professor who was wearing a yellow T-shirt with a red “V” on it.
“They are so lucky to belong to a country that allows that kind of vote. That is a big difference between the two of us, but we are linked by the excitement of deciding our future.”
An official Catalan opinion poll shows support for an independent state tripled to 45.2 per cent in March 2014 from 13.9 per cent in March 2006, although many commentators in Madrid, where there is fierce opposition to Catalan nationalism, question the way such polls are carried out.
According to state pollster CIS this year, about 45 per cent of Catalans support full independence, 20 per cent would support a federal state, and 23 per cent back an autonomous region.
“It would be the people’s triumph if we were allowed to vote. If we live in democracy we should be allowed to vote,” said Montserrat, a 58-year-old homemaker.
She said it was a different issue whether the vote was “yes” or “no,” “but at least we should be allowed to vote, as the Scots will do.”
(Additional reporting by Inmaculada Sanz; Writing and additional reporting by Elisabeth O’Leary; Editing by Julien Toyer)
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