What are the possible outcomes if the Catalan people vote yes for independence?
First, I don't believe that this is IF. There is no doubt that YES will »win«, probably with a landslide – simply because many of those who oppose the independence will stay at home. And chances are good that referendum will be prevented in at least some of those towns which lean against independence, so even if you are an opponent and want to vote, you won't be able to do so. For that reason, the real question isn't what will the result be, but rather, how many people will wote for independence. In Quebec 1996 it was 46 % of all eligible voters. In Montenegro 2005 it was 48 %. In Scotland, it was under 38 %. I don't want to say that there is a definite threshold, however without support of well over 40 % of the electorate, the independists' case will not be stronger once the emotions cool down after that Sunday night. And if they don't come at least close to 40 %, they will in fact be weaker as they are now.
But anyway, chances are very real that the Catalan parliament will declare independence some time in early October.
What happens then? In my opinion, Catalonia becoming a real independent state in a few years is unlikely. Even the most hard-core independentists understand that to turn Catalonia into fully functioning independent state, they will sooner or later need an approval from Madrid. To get it, three things should happen:
- Rajoy should go. Depending on how the events unfold after the »declaration of independence«, this may happen quite soon. Or may not happen for years.
- New goverment in Madrid should be much more comfortable with the idea of at least a binding referendum (not to say, with the idea of Catalan – and in that case very likely Basque as well – independence). For now, the only serious political party in Spain which fulfills this criteria is Podemos, but they seem to be pretty far from the point where they could lead the government. And even if Iglesias manages to form a coalition, in order to get the referendum law through, he'd probably have to change the constitution, requiring a supermajority, otherwise CC could block the referendum even if the law got the parliament majority. If PP finds themselves in opposition, they will probably be strong enough to veto it for a long time, buying the votes of emotive unionists that way (unless the sititation in Catalonia deteriorates dramatically – see p.s.).
- Finally, when the public opinion and government finally shift, Madrid is unlikely to accept straight and full recognition of independent Catalonia. Much mure likely, it will come out with a kind of devo max alternative proposal. While the outcome of a binding status-quo-vs-independence referendum is completely unpredictable at the moment, a devo-max-vs-independence referendum should, at least as the things stand now, produce a clear defeat for independentists, possibly with 70 %.
So while there is little doubt we will witness some very powerfull expressions of seccesionist emotions over the next weeks and months and many Spaniards – and loyal Catalans – would sleep bad in this time, I wouldn't put much of my money on a fully independent Catalan state in the near future.
p.s.: Violence, armed conflict or even a full blown civil war? God forbid. As far as I understand, Catalans are mostly pragmatic people, although there is a small hard core independentist wing which seems to be ready to go at least some way further from the present Gandhian style of protests. I can only hope that this nightmare never comes true. But for now, there is unfortunatelly no guarantee. Only »the deal« will rule this possibility out. However, even in the best case, the deal is at least two years away.