Catalonia’s Quest for Independence

The Catalan secessionist debate can be considered as the resurgence of a long-standing desire by Catalans to assert their national identity by the establishment of a distinct Catalan nation in which their economy, language and culture would not be centrally determined.

During the 1939–1975 dictatorship of General Francisco Franco, national unity and the legitimisation of the Franco dictatorship was predicated on a homogeneous Castilian identity, which was brutally enforced by the repression of all regional differences, one of which was Catalan culture and language.

The 1975 transition to democracy pledged to create a “Spain of the autonomies”, and accordingly, legislation was ratified to reverse the stagnation of Catalan culture and language. The advent of the economic recession, however, has caused Catalans to criticise a federal fiscal system which, they allege, has enabled the Spanish state to accrue far more financial benefits from Catalonia than the Catalans themselves. Their grievances are not entirely unfounded: Catalonia is Spain’s richest and most industrialised region, accounting for one fifth of Spain’s GDP, and its taxes help finance less prosperous regions, such as Andalucía. For many Catalans, this unequal distribution of wealth has become intolerable in the context of a severe recession in Catalonia, where unemployment now stands at 16.5%.

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