Why do some Catalans want to become independent?

What has changed recently to increase their desire to be independent?

I'd like to understand this situation, as I am currently completely ignorant about it.

  • 1
    Related (I would say that at its core this is even a dupe, but I will refrain from VtC because they are asked in different ways): politics.stackexchange.com/questions/9249/…
    – SJuan76
    Commented Oct 2, 2017 at 7:57
  • 2
    This Belongs to History.SE, where i already have a quite good answer on it. history.stackexchange.com/questions/31054/…
    – CptEric
    Commented Oct 2, 2017 at 9:28
  • Piggybacking off of CptEric's comment, What has changed lately to increase their desire to be independent? Nothing; there have been attempts/voices for Catalan independence for a few hundred years.
    – TylerH
    Commented Oct 2, 2017 at 21:21
  • @CptEric thanks, that actually answers my question better than any of the answers here. I actually wouldn't mind my question being closed, but I also thought it was a fundamental question many people would have that didn't seem to be asked yet. I didn't think to look on History.SE.
    – Nacht
    Commented Oct 2, 2017 at 22:31
  • @CptEric err sorry I meant Tom Au's answer there... It succinctly summed up what I was missing. Yours is rather long, but now I feel I have to read it. Looks like I'll be learning a lot.
    – Nacht
    Commented Oct 3, 2017 at 11:10

5 Answers 5


What has changed lately to increase their desire to be independent?

This isn't actually how separatism works. It's not that they want independence now more than they did, say, fifty years ago. It's that they think they can get independence now. Fifty years ago, they would have faced suppression by the military. The rest of Europe would have had difficulty intervening, as Europe wanted General Francisco Franco's support against the Soviet Union.

Now they can point to European intervention in Libya as favoring their position. They can ask the rest of Europe to protect them from Spanish violence as Libyan rebels were protected from Libyan government violence.

As to reasons why they want to be independent, they have a separate language and culture and a history of advocating separation. A previous question asked about policy differences between Catalonia and Spain. Beyond that, I can't say it better than Wikipedia:

Following Franco's death in 1975, Catalan political parties concentrated on autonomy rather than independence.

The modern independence movement began when the 2006 Statute of Autonomy, which had been agreed with the Spanish government and passed by a referendum in Catalonia, was challenged in the Spanish High Court of Justice, which ruled that some of the articles were unconstitutional, or were to be interpreted restrictively. Popular protest against the decision quickly turned into demands for independence.

They were focused on autonomy rather than separation and had negotiated an agreement with the Spanish government. The agreement was rejected by a court case, which has led them to feel betrayed. If they can't get autonomy through agreements, they want it through separation.

Of course, they probably also want to remain in the European Union (EU). So their separation from Spain would have less impact than other separations (e.g. India and Pakistan). There would still be free movement to and from Catalonia if both Catalonia and Spain were in the EU. Both would be subject to EU laws and share a common currency.

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    The Libya comparison doesn't hold. Spain is a (more or less) functioning democracy, and a member of NATO and the EU. It would be almost unthinkable for France, UK, or the USA to conduct airstrikes on Madrid or send tanks over the border. Also, Catalonia has a significantly higher per capita income than Spain; it may be regarded as subsidising the rest of Spain, and might be financially better off if it became independent. Commented Oct 2, 2017 at 10:07
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    The idea of appealing to European protection seems absurd. The Catalan regional government spent public money to violate the constitution with the declared goal of splitting the country. You will hardly find any European government that condones that kind of behavior (at maximum they will condemn the violence), especially since several European countries have minorities of their own.
    – user10415
    Commented Oct 2, 2017 at 12:34
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    @RoyalCanadianBandit, just a 3 years ago I too thought that airstirke on the park in the middle of European city is impossible, as well as tanks on the streets with soldiers gunning down bypassers. Ukrainian regime proven me wrong in Lugansk and Mariupol. Commented Oct 2, 2017 at 20:29
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    @MikeScott: The right of self-determination applies to colonies. Catalonia is not a colony. There is no absolute "right" in international law for Catalonia, California, or Cornwall to declare itself independent. Commented Oct 3, 2017 at 7:40
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    @RoyalCanadianBandit No, it applies to peoples: “All peoples have the right of self-determination.”
    – Mike Scott
    Commented Oct 3, 2017 at 8:16

As a scientist I cannot explain the reasons in political words, but anyway I will try to give the main reasons which explain the increase of the "independentism" in Catalonia. First of all, I will ignore the historical reasons of the Catalan nationalism and I'll try to only consider the the facts of the last years:

First of all let's check the autonomic vote in the Catalan parliament from 1992. There are 2 major nationalist Catalan political parties: CIU (Not Pro-Independence until 2012 approx) and ERC (Pro-Independence).

  • Elections 1992: CIU (46%) ERC(8%) = 8% pro independence
  • Elections 1995: CIU (41%) ERC(9%) = 9% pro independence
  • Elections 1999: CIU (38%) ERC(9%) = 9% pro independence
  • Elections 2003: CIU (30%) ERC(16%)= 16% pro independence
  • Elections 2006: CIU (32%) ERC(14%)= 14 pro independence
  • Elections 2010: CIU (38%) ERC(7%) = 7% pro independence
  • CIU publically declares pro-independence (Partially)
  • Elections 2012: CIU (30%) ERC(13%) CUP(3%) = 16% pro independence + most of the 30% of CIU
  • Elections 2015: (CIU+ERC) (40%) CUP(8%) = 48% pro independence

I must say that this analysis is not complete and it only gives some notions of the pro-independence evolution, because the real support to independence can only be known with a real referendum.

Which are the main reasons for the increase of independence support from approximately 2010? I would point 2 main reasons:

1- Spanish Crisis. It is always known that crisis changes people mind and introduces new ideas. In general, in Spain the main consequence of the crisis was the "15-M" movement which lead to "Podemos" political party. In Catalonia apart from "Podemos" party it leaded also to an increment of the pro Independence movement.

2- Catalan estatut of autonomia of 2006. In 2005 there was an agreement of the majority of the Catalan parliament for a "new statute of autonomy" it was voted in a referendum and accepted by Catalan voters. But at the same time, some articles were reported not to be legal from Spanish constitution point of view. In 2006 the "Tribunal Constitucional" of Spain determined that some of them were effectively not legal according Spanish constitution and therefore those articles were removed or changed.

Next is a list of the suppressed or modified articles and the reasons for it to be unconstitutional that the Constitutional Tribunal has determined. On Wikipedia you have the complete process, changes and reactions of the statute.

Article 5 Historical Rights Catalonia self-government as a nation is based in the historical rights of the Catalan people, in it's age-old institutions and in the Catalan legal tradition, that this Statute incorporates and updates under article 2 [of the Statute], the second transitional provision and other provisions of the Constitution, precepts from which it derives the recognition of the Generalitat unique situation in regarding the civil law, language, education, culture and institutional system in which the Generalitat is organized.

Article 5 about historic rights: It can be argued as an equivalent to first additional provision to the constitution and it doesn't constitutes a valid legal basis to justify the Catalan self-government apart from the Constitution.

Article 8. National symbols 1. Flag, holiday and hymn are national symbols of Catalonia 2. The holiday of Catalonia is the "Diada" every September 11th.

Article 8 about national symbols in Catalonia: The term "nation" doesn't have any other meaning that the one present on the Constitution for "nationality", acknowledged in the article 2 of the Magna Carta and without question about the "indissoluble unity of the Spanish Nation"

Article 34: to be found

Article 34 about the language "availability" in store and business, it can't be forced in any case the use of only one of the two official languages for the region: Spanish or Catalan.

Article 50. Foment and diffusion of the Catalan 4.The public powers have to promote that the data on the packaging and use instruction of the stock distributed in Catalonia have at least the Catalan as a language.

Article 50.2, about the encouragement of the Catalan language, this can't be misunderstood with the possibility of banning the use of the Spanish language in any case or situation.

Article 95 : Catalan High Court 2. The next instances and judicial processes started on Catalonia will be expired before the court of the Catalonia territory and if applicable before the Catalan High Court, even in an extraordinary appeal, without prejudice to the appeal for the unification of doctrine established by the competition law of the Supreme Court.

Article 95.2, that points the competence of the High Court to unify doctrine, the Constitutional court clarifies that this competence doesn't limit the possibility to be regulated for the Organic Law about Power of Attorney to regulate that in every historic moment the jurisdictional function is up to the High Court, and therefore what is pointed in the autonomy statute is not qualification.

*Article 110:*to be found

Article 110 where is appointed the "exclusive capacity of the Generalitat" the legislative, executive and regulatory powers, have as a limit the article 149 of the Constitution in a wider sense, this is, they aren't exclusive if they compete with the ones from the State, in the physic space as well as legal object.

Article 129: to be found

Mentioned Spain Constitution paragraph Civil law, without prejudice of the conservation, modification and development of the civil rights , statutory rights, or special rights, where they exist, for the autonomic communities. In every case, the rules regarding the application and effectiveness of the legal norms, legal-civil relationship on the marriage, ordinance of registrations and public instruments(?), contractual obligations, rules to resolve law conflicts, and determination of the sources of law, in this last case attending to law rules of statutory or special law.

-Article 129 about the Catalan civil law, it has to be understood the limited competency "to the conservation, modification and development of the special civil law in Catalonia", without competing with the State's legal capacity of legislation and the general civil regulation as exposed on the article 149.1.8 of the Constitution.

Article 183.1: to be found

-Article 183.1 about the Bilateral Commission State-Autonomous Community to treat State exclusive competencies, it doesn't limit the capacity of the State for its execution nor does it condition it.

Article 206.5: to be found

-Article 206.5 about the mechanisms of evening economic contributions through the taxes, the Constitutional Court clarifies that it will only be argued when the change of the Catalonia situation was due to the strict application of the evening mechanisms and not to other causes.

This is about taking the power of the Spanish Government on the article 150.2 of the Constitution which states that the Government can take care with good reason of some parts of the autonomic communities if needed.

-About the third additional provision,paragraph 1, about State infrastructures, does not impair the capacity to legislate of the courts or the government to set their economic investments.

-Additional provisions about the cession of the tax to rent, VAT and other taxes, it is only possible through an agreement between the proper institution and the General Courts.

From 2010 until today there has been protests year by year on the 11th of September which is the national day of Catalonia. Those protests at 1st stage were against the "Tribunal Constitucional" decision with the "statute of autonomy" but year by year those demands have been changing to Catalan independence Referendum.

In few words I think this is in summary the evolution and the objective reasons for the increase of the pro independence Catalan movement these last years.

Personal opinion (from my point of view as a moderate Catalan nationalist):

1- In the starting of the nationalism post-Franco there was a "more or less" clear division between people which were born in Catalonia (spoken mostly Catalan living in little towns and cities generally Catalan nationalist) and people which migrate from the rest of Spain (approx in 60's and 70's) (spoken mostly in Spanish living in big cities near Barcelona generally not Catalan nationalist). Nowadays seems that Catalan nationalism has evolved to be more open minded with Spanish language which also helps to have more support to the independence.

2- Partido Popular was the party which spent more effort to block "Catalan statute" (Mariano Rajoy as a visible face). Partido Popular with Mariano Rajoy has been governing Spain during these years and ignored completely Catalan protests year by year. In my opinion problems should be faced and not ignored.

3- In general, there are some people disappointed with the behavior of the Spanish government towards some Catalan people demands.

4- Economical reasons seems to give also some arguments to Pro-Independence people to believe that with the Independence Catalonia will be richer and infrastructure will be better.

I hope it helps to understand the situation! :-)


Why does Catalonia want to become independent?

Catalonia is a region where historically there was cultural differences, or more than differences, "add-ons" as the plain Spanish regions. Also they were part of a Kingdom that was the last one joining the others forming Spain. There are other two historic regions in Spain, Galicia and Basque country. This three regions have different languages, music, literature and popular culture and traditions in addition to the ones that are general for other Spanish regions. In fact the cultural manifestations and languages from this regions influenced a lot the whole country.

The nationalism and independentism in Spain and more specifically in these three regions, become a thing after the second republic and with the dictatorship of Francisco Franco. In the republic these historical regions will have some specific laws to maintain it's autonomy and culture, the first of this specific laws.

When the civil war ended and the republicans lost, the new fascist regime wanted Spain as "one big and free", so they tried to eliminate every cultural manifestation from this historical regions, banning the use of other languages other than the Spanish, killing writers, artists, defenders of their culture and making it look like if you were talking basque, Catalan, or Galician you will be evil or dumb. As an anecdote, in Galicia there is still a general impression on the most metropolitan areas that the ones who talk in Galician are some kind of dumb farmers, all of this derivated from the repression.

Then the democracy come and all the regions accepted the constitution, the new laws specific for regions with high benefits for basque country and Catalonia, the ones more belligerent against the regime. But the nationalism remained, as some sort of twisted left wing associated ideas. This groups historically were against everything that were equal for all Spain, and year after year wanted more and more economic advantages.

That's how we nowadays have parties with independence ideas. They don't want to experience again that cultural repression from the government as they did in the Franco fascist regime. They are populist parties relying in peoples emotions to make them feel important. No one of this three historical regions were oppressed nor forced to join Spain, but is a good story to keep spirits high.

What has changed lately to increase their desire to be independent?

Crisis, not only financial crisis but political. The main industries from Spain were and sadly still are, tourism and construction. When the crisis started the construction related companies went bankruptcy and a lot of people became unemployed, up to 23% in 2011. The party on the government a left wing party (PSOE) messed it up a lot and they were punished on the elections, leading to the rise of the right wing ultra-conservative party (PP).

The new government choose as their priority the bankary rescue with public money, also with their control of around than three quarters of the congress could dictate a lot of legal measures on the edge between the legal and the attack to the universal human rights. Also their economic policies were not working and everyday we have reports of a new member of the party investigated in cases of corruption. We discovered large corruptions systems almost always associated with the big parties in Spain, PP and PSOE. The salaries went down, the laboral conditions became too poorly and the unemployment rate wasn't diminishing.

With this social context, everyone that stated PP as the common enemy, in a black and white close to your emotions speech, have his popularity augmented exponentially. It's simple, we have an enemy in common and I am the hero who will destroy that enemy join me. In times of need this speech works pretty well. ERC, CiU (Catalan parties), Podemos (new born lefty party), Gold dawn, Corbyn, Trump...

It's pretty simple as always what it's needed is some context.

  • Crisis, not only financial crisis but political. The main industries from spain were and sadly still are, tourism and construction. I'm Italian and this sounds oddly familiar, including a history of separatism. Commented Oct 2, 2017 at 22:51
  • Didn't Navarra join "Spain" after Aragon? Commented Apr 10, 2020 at 7:48

IMPORTANT: this answer is a section I copied from a History.SE answer I did, linked below

TL;DR: Catalonia isn't suffering a rise of nationalism, but of neo-autonomism / pro-independence feeling, mainly due to loss of civil rights, economic power,and, or, more correctly, the final and uttermost understanding that those rights and power were never there in first place.

By looking at the past, and the explained reasons, we can get a quick list running of "what has pushed people to want to vote YES", instead of "what has pushed people to be nationalists" :

Catalan parties push for independence ( since 2012)

Spanish Government's actions against the Catalan parliament's will

Catalan and Spanish government's lack of ability to fight the 2007 and 2009 economic crisis.

The actions of individuals and social movements towards a referendum / independence.

The pursue of a better, more social country ruled without the constraints of being a small part of a very different whole.

The popular party winning in Spain unconditionally since 2011 even when having more than 1000 open corruption cases.

The civil movement will dissolve as soon as a valid legal referendum is done and one of either sides wins with a good (>55%) result, because none of the sides have a strong nationalist nucleus.

I collected a example list of non-core law changes revoked by the Spanish government, to showcase the vast differences on them and to display the irrationality behind the revocation, except in two (pro-independentist) cases.

Law on audiovisual matters (2/2012)

Decree-law of business hours (4/2012, 2/2014)

Decree-law of taxes to banks (5/2012)

Decree-law against energy poverty (6/2013)

Law accompanying budgets (2/2014)

Law of popular consultations not referendums (10/2014)

Law of the Ombudsman (2008, decision 3/2015)

Foreign Action Law (3/2015)

Commissioner for the National Transition (4/2015)

Rate for Internet operators (9/2015)

Consumer Code of Catalonia (10/2015)

Reform of the commercial law of Catalonia (10/2015)

Tax Agency of Catalonia (9/2015 - 11/2015)

Parliamentary declaration of independence (11/2015)

Study Group Study Commission (2/2016)

Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2/2016)

Decree-law against energy poverty (4/2016)

Law of taxes on empty housing (4/2016)

Law of local governments (4/2016)

Law of effective equality between men and women (4/2016)

Fracking ban law (3/2012, 4/2016)

Law prohibiting large areas outside cities (4/2016)

Tax creation law for the production of nuclear energy

Law that allowed the creation of Medinyà as a new municipality separated from Sant Julià de Ramis (8/2015)

Emergency housing law, or against evictions (24/2015)

More info on my History.SE answer.

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    The answer misses several important points. If a regional body creates a law giving itself powers that it does not have, then revoking it is not "irrational". It would not be different from the USA Federal government challenging a state law forbiding, say, people from other states coming to live to that state. Also a better, more social country contradicts that one of the points of independentism is against the redistribution of wealth within Spain, due to Catalonia's higher GDP per capita.
    – SJuan76
    Commented Oct 2, 2017 at 10:10
  • Many of your "non-core laws changes" are related to the Generalitat giving himself powers usually linked to states (like "Ministry of foreign affairs" or "Parliamentary declaration of independence"), making them rather "core laws". Also, which "loss of civil rights" are you talking about? And of course, that a party that you do not like wins the elections is not considered a valid reason for secession, anywhere.
    – SJuan76
    Commented Oct 2, 2017 at 10:17
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    @SJuan76 none of those powers are forbidden by the constitution, but they are neither granted. the empty space has allowed CCAA all around spain to make laws that increase the level of autonomy they have in some sectors, most of the time, on those the central government does not do anything, like energy poverty. about the rights, since 2015 the right to demonstrate, free spech and defense have been coarted and revoked in the basis of the Strap Law that the PP created alone when they had absolute majority.
    – CptEric
    Commented Oct 2, 2017 at 10:56
  • More improtantly, upvotes or downvotes are not meant to display your opinion on the points given.
    – CptEric
    Commented Oct 2, 2017 at 10:59
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    It is like saying "I have been jailed by the government" without explaining if you have been jailed due to criticizing it or because you are a serial killer...
    – SJuan76
    Commented Oct 2, 2017 at 11:32

This is not coming "now". The Catalans have been wanting this since 1714. Only now, it is opportune to openly say it (especially after e.g. Scotland has had a referendum about independence).
The political world has changed. Things that were socially impossible to pronounce (whether they be true or not) a year or two ago now can be said. That doesn't mean people didn't think that way before.

It all started in the Spanish Succession War after Karl II died without heir. The Catalans opposed, and lost to, the Bourbons (Philip V), based on the fear that the Bourbon's intent to have a centralized state would cut down on provincial rights. Which, as it happens, is exactly what happened and what the Catalans still have, and hate, today.
From their point of view, there's them who earns almost all of the money in the country, them who pays almost all tax in the country (which is kinda true, too) and there's all those lazy Spanish slackers, and that corrupt government in Madrid where money just disappears in a black hole, and nobody can tell where it goes. That, and they weren't even entitled to speak their own language until recently. Sounds familiar? Well, look at Italy (Alto Adige). Not much different.

Of course, there is no way Spain will, or even could, agree to Catalonia separating, ever. If that happened, Spain would go bankrupt within weeks.
They will do everything, including application of unjustified, disproportionate force against unarmed civilians, to scotch any attempt early, as proven by yesterday's events.

Sadly, this isn't going to work, it's only going to end bad. Oppressing a people (a proud people in particular) never works out. It doesn't matter how much police or how many troops your send, it is a lost cause.
The Nazis learned that, the British learned it, the USA learned it, the Russians learned it, and the Spanish will learn it as well. Unluckily, until then, we will see uncomfortable years of terror as with the Basques during the last 30 or so years.

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    Without any sources or links, this answer is essentially an opinionated rant. On Facebook this would be far above average, as you have used complete sentences and decent punctuation and grammar. But thankfully, this site is not Facebook. (By the way, I agree with the point in your last couple paragraphs, but am uncertain as to its applicability to this situation.)
    – Wildcard
    Commented Oct 3, 2017 at 1:22
  • manipulated historical reasons argued as this one has been included in school books for years, paving the way to a new generation of catalan-speakers that feels more catalonian than spanish Commented Oct 3, 2017 at 10:06

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