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Scottish Labour MPs: a referendum could have been organised without London’s approval

The Catalan Parliament’s Committee on self determination welcomed two Scottish MPs, Stewart Maxwell (SNP) and Patricia Ferguson (Labour Party) to learn from their experience on the political processes that led to the 2014 Scottish referendum. The Catalan Socialist Party (PSC) is currently divided on the issue of holding a self-determination referendum without Madrid’s previous agreement. The PSC leadership is convinced that any self-determination initiative has to be agreed in advance with the Spanish Government. However, some PSC MPs believe that since Madrid is currently refusing to negotiate, the Catalan people is entitled to put their own legal proposals on the table and ultimately organise the referendum on their own. The PSC asked if a referendum was possible without a political agreement between governments. Ferguson answered she believed Scotland would have gone trough with the referendum, even without a Westminster approval.

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20 November 2013 09:26 PM

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ACN

Barcelona (ACN).- The Catalan Parliament’s Committee on self determination welcomed two Scottish MPs, Stewart Maxwell (SNP) and Patricia Ferguson (Labour Party) to learn from their experience on the political processes that led to the 2014 Scottish referendum. Inici del formulariBoth MPs have been involved in the process, although Maxwell supports independence and Ferguson is against it. This Committee is analysing the legal framework to organise a self-determination referendum in Catalonia. Catalan Socialist MP Fernando Pedret asked if there were other possible alternatives to hold a referendum without a political agreement between governments, thereby indirectly referring to the Spanish Government’s refusal to allow a referendum in Catalonia. Ferguson explained that, in Scotland, the referendum would have been organised even without the approval of Westminster since the SNP holds an absolute majory in Edinburgh’s Parliament and that the Labour Party had never ruled out such an option. The Catalan Socialist Party (PSC) is currently divided on the issue of holding a self-determination referendum without Madrid’s previous agreement. The PSC leadership is convinced that any self-determination initiative has to be agreed in advance with the Spanish Government. However, some PSC MPs believe that since Madrid is currently refusing to negotiate, the Catalan people is entitled to put their own legal proposals on the table and ultimately organise the referendum on their own.


“I’m not 100% sure” about what the Labour Party would have done, stated Ferguson. However, she immediately added that she believed that “as the Scottish Government and the SNP then had and still have a majority in Parliament, that they would have been able to move forward with the referendum regardless of what others parties thought”. “It would have been possible for them to act on their own on this one”, she continued, “even if we had not cooperated with the proposal”. In addition, she also added that “other parties would have refused to cooperate” in reference to the Conservatives and Liberals, who would not have supported any decision going against Westminster and the unity of the UK.

The Scottish Referendum as a legitimate right

SNP MP Stewart Maxwell confirmed such an idea by stating that although the agreement with London has facilitated the whole process, Edinburgh stood ready to announce the referendum even in the event of refusal from the UK. “We have the right to hold a referendum regardless of any agreement with the UK. The Scottish Parliament is entitled to vote on any matter it deems appropriate”, “even if it does not have the power to do so” insisted Maxwell.

Ferguson, from the Social-Democrat Labour Party, stressed the importance of an agreement between governments. Otherwise, should London have refused to allow a referendum, they would have had to deal with the “shame” of going against the will of the majority of the Scottish people who had voiced their opinion in the elections of 2011.

The only point of disagreement between the SNP and Labour MPs is the answer they will give to such referendum. One will vote ‘yes’ to independence and the other ‘no’, but neither would ever have denied the Scots the right to decide about their political future through a referendum. Maxwell pointed out that what citizens were mostly involved in politically in 2011 was precisely the referendum on Scottish independence and this is what the Scots will be voting for in 2014.

London held negotiations while Madrid has repeatedly rejected them

Despite the clear parallels between the Catalan and the Scottish cases, the two MPs have stated Scotland should not get involved in a Catalan referendum and that it was for the Spanish and the Catalan to come to decide what they should do. The main difference between Scotland and Catalonia is that while London openly decided to negotiate the Scottish referendum, Madrid disagreed to do so.

The Scottish referendum is to be held on the 14th of September 2014 with a very clear question: “Should Scotland be an independent country?”, and two possible answers: “Yes” or “No”. An agreement with the British government has decided not only on the question and date of the referendum, but has also allowed the Scottish parliament to vote a specific law on the independence referendum. This new law, which was passed unanimously last week, changes the legal age to vote in referendums to 16 years old. There is no minimum level of participation required, and for the ‘yes’ to win, it will need to have 50 % +1 of the votes cast. Both London and Edinburgh have vowed to respect the outcome whatever it may be, and in case the ‘yes’ wins, it would open a transitional period of 18 months during which Scotland would negotiate independence with the UK and with international institutions such as the EU, UN and NATO .

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  • Patricia Ferguson, Labour Party MP from Scotland, at the Catalan Parliament (by A. Moldes)

  • Patricia Ferguson, Labour Party MP from Scotland, at the Catalan Parliament (by A. Moldes)