More Spaniards want a centralist state while more Catalans advocate for independence

Recent polls and the massive demonstration in Barcelona on 10 July suggest a widening gap between citizens in Spain and Catalonia since the cuts in the Statute


August 5, 2010 11:45 PM

The number of Spaniards who want a more centralised state is rising, according to the last poll by the Centre for Sociological Investigations (CIS). The study indicates that 27.4% of Spaniards want a more unitarian system, an increase of 2.9% since the last poll in April.
The rise of Spanish centralism coincides with the massive demonstration in the streets of Barcelona on 10 July, when more than one million people protested against the polemical decision made by the Spanish Constitutional Court to cut some articles of the Catalan Statute –the benchmark of Catalonia’s devolved governance system. While unitaritism grows in central Spain, independentism rises in Catalonia, where recent polls suggest that 47% of Catalans would vote “yes” in a referendum in favour of Catalan independence.

The distinction between Spaniards’ and Catalans’ perceived political solutions to the territorial tensions is widening. Although 58% of Spanish people admit that the territorial system should change, having witnessed the tensions between Madrid and Barcelona, as much as 27.4% think that the best solutions are those that reduce regional autonomy –the opposite of many Catalans’ beliefs and aspirations.

Specifically, 15% of Spaniards would eliminate the current autonomic system and would create a single central government to manage all Spanish affairs from Madrid. 12.4% of Spanish people would, instead, reduce the current powers of the devolved governments.

22.4% of Spaniards agree to an increase of regional governments’ powers. Of those, 14.5% would accept more autonomy for the devolved governments. Only 7.9% of Spaniards agree that regions within the Spanish state should have the right to become independent if they want to. This figure is, however, slightly higher (0.9%) than in the last barometer in April.

While centralism grows in Spain, in Catalonia the tensions with the central government in Madrid have fuelled support for independence. For the first time in history, polls suggest that more Catalans are in favour of independence than against it. A survey by La Vanguardia, for example, indicates that 36% of Catalans would vote “no” in a referendum, while 47% would vote “yes.” Five per cent of voters are undecided and 10% of people stated that they would decide either not vote or would submit a blank vote.

The relationship between Spain and Catalonia has been damaged since the Spanish Constitutional Court decided to cut 14 articles of the Catalan Statute and to reinterpret 27 more. Catalans perceived the decision as an attack on their political will, especially as the Statute was passed by both the Catalan and Spanish parliaments and was voted in by a democratic referendum.

The Statute was perceived by many in Catalonia as an agreed system of guaranteeing extensive powers to the devolved government of Catalonia, while maintaining the union with Spain. However, the ruling by the Constitutional Court –that cuts or reinterprets several symbolic articles of the law and states up to eight times that there is only one nation in Spain- has increased the disengagement of Catalans from the idea of a multinational and integrative Spain. According to analysts, this explains the rise of trends towards Catalan independence.