The First Minister of Catalonia, Artur Mas, has compared the current Catalan struggle for independence to the “heroic defence” of Barcelona three centuries ago in a series of public messages on the occasion of Catalonia’s annual Diada national day, which this year commemorates the 300th anniversary of the end of the siege of the city in 1714.
Last night, in a pre-recorded institutional speech from St. George’s Hall in the Palau de la Generalitat, the seat of the Catalan First Minister, Mr. Mas emphasised the historical significance of this 300th anniversary celebration just two months before his government attempts to call a regional vote on the secession of Catalonia that the Spanish government in Madrid refuses to countenance.
“It was also here, in the Hall of St. George, that the decision was made in 1713 to defend the Catalan Constitutions and bravely resist the Bourbon forces during the siege of Barcelona until their troops finally entered the city on September 11th, 1714″
He said the “heroic defence of Barcelona” three hundred years ago sought to defend “some of the most advanced laws of that age” against “absolutist” Bourbon troops whose aim was “to annihilate our identity, our language, and our parliamentary constitutional regime”.
The Catalan parliament will debate, and likely pass, a regional consultation bill on September 19—the day after Scotland votes in its own independence referendum—in order to try and make the November vote legal in the face of very firm opposition in Madrid, where the national government is preparing an appeal to Spain’s Constitutional Court to annul the Catalan referendum law.
Responding to recent reports that his commitment to hold a vote might be wavering given the likelihood the Spanish Constitutional Court declares the new Catalan law illegal, Mr. Mas said that his political will “remains firm”, and pleaded with Madrid to: “listen to the Catalan people’s peaceful and democratic outcry”.
“Silencing the voice of a people who want to talk is an error; to deny the right to vote to those who see the ballot box as the solution rather than the problem is a double error.”
In an interview given to AFP, the Catalan First Minister said that it was “practically impossible” to stop Catalans voting on their future if that is what a majority wish to do.
“It is absurd to mean to do so and the Spanish state must realise that”, he told the news agency.
He was enthusiastic about the chances for European realpolitik if the Scots vote to secede from the United Kingdom, and said he believed “fast track negotiations” would take place between Scotland, the UK and the EU.
And this morning at a concert at which 300 celloists played a specially-composed piece by Albert Guinovart, “We were. We are. We will be.” (Èrem. Som. Serem.), he said: “The Spanish government has a fixed position, no political initiative, when the Catalan question is a affair of State, the biggest it has to deal with”, adding that: “It would be an error to try to resolve a strictly political problem within a legal framework”.
“Boxing oneself in is not having initiative”, said Mr. Mas, in reference to Mr. Rajoy’s outright refusal to allow any kind of popular vote in Catalonia on the question of secession: “Political problems are solved by politics, not by legal threats”.
He rejected the idea of calling early elections if Spain’s Constitutional Court strikes down the regional referendum law before November: “Our efforts are directed towards November 9 and that’s the goal”.
If the vote in Catalonia takes place in November, the Catalan government will pose a double referendum question to voters: “Do you want Catalonia to be a state?” and “Do you want Catalonia to be an independent state?”.