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Reaction to Catalan referendum


Dr Marina Bock, Lecturer in Civil Engineering

I was born in the city of Barcelona in Catalonia where I spent almost 30 years of my life before moving to the UK a few years ago. My feelings yesterday are hard to describe but I would say they are a combination of sadness and anger.

I don’t consider myself a strong Catalan nationalist but would strongly defend my language, culture, traditions and people which the Spanish government seems not to have been respecting as they should, especially since Mariano Rajoy party came back into Government in 2011 with an unduly anti-catalanism approach. For instance, imposing Spanish as a main language in schools as they believe Catalans are able to speak Catalan only. As a person educated in Barcelona, I absolutely have no problems communicating in both Spanish and Catalan. Neither do most of the educated Catalan population.

Since then, negotiations between the governments of Catalonia and Spain have deteriorated significantly and the bubble burst when ex-leader Artur Mas went to Madrid to negotiate the Catalan government finances. Despite this, Catalan politicians have been seeking dialogue with Mariano Rajoy government but the response has remained the same: a closed door. The whole situation led to a rise in Catalan nationalism and therefore the willingness to split relationships with Spain.

Back in November 2014, Artur Mas organised a consultation on independence. At this time, I was in the UK and flew to Barcelona to vote. I remember my mother crying at the polling station while voting. She said she had been waiting for that moment for a long time and was afraid of missing her chance to express her right to vote on the independence of Catalonia. She was not the only one.

The consultation was indeed unconstitutional and hence illegal, as was last Sunday’s attempt at referendum, but the Catalan government was left with no alternative other than that one. How would you make a consultation constitutional if the central government, in simple words, doesn’t want to speak to you to find the way to make it constitutional (similar to the arrangement here with Scotland) and you are left alone with no other choice?

Although the constitution of Spain was written 40 years ago and society evolved, the text seems to be changeable for matters that benefit the politicians or the monarchy but unchangeable to address the Catalan referendum. Moreover, it is not on the agenda of the Spanish government discussing any changes in the text of the constitution to make the referendum legal. Then what options are left other than referendums or consultations if they are always blocked by the Spanish government and suspended by the Constitutional Court of Spain?

I do support the referendum on independence of Catalonia but following the legal way. That is why I did not travel to Barcelona last weekend. I want to know what people want to do and I want the outcome to be binding. I would also like to extend the referendum on the Catalan independence to the rest of Spain to know their views. 

It was not a secret that the Spanish government would do anything to prevent the referendum from happening but no one was expecting the police clashes yesterday. My heart sank while seeing Spanish police officers violently kicking, pulling hair, pushing, and even shooting illegal rubber bullets. How are Catalans supposed to improve relationships with the rest of Spain after being attacked in a dictatorship fashion by what they call the same nation?  

I am a strong supporter of second chances but after yesterday, it is going to be difficult for me. It is also disappointing to see other Spanish people living in the UK ignoring the conflict and not even asking about your feelings or if your relatives living there were injured after the police clashes. We are all going to struggle and we will need support from outside to make things run smooth again.

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