The Catalan parliament has chosen a new head for the Generalitat – the supreme self-governing body of the autonomous community of Catalonia. His name is Pere Aragonès, as arranged between the Republican Left of Catalonia, the Together for Catalonia coalition and the Popular Unity Candidacy party. For the first time in the region's entire history, the government is headed by a Republican representative.
It should be noted that the agreement was concluded just a week before the Catalan parliament's deadline to make up its mind about the candidacy. If this had not happened by May 26, the region would have witnessed a new parliamentary election. But a compromise was found, Aragonès ensured support with the deputies and entered upon duty on May 24.
However, there are doubts whether Aragonès will manage to keep his coalition partners from ill-advised moves. The former Generalitat head and leader of the Together for Catalonia coalition Carles Puigdemont, who is now fleeing from Spanish justice in Belgium, clearly does not want to yield his post as head of the separatist movement. Arrangements suggest that his supporters take key regional government positions. And in case of divergence of views on certain issues with the Generalitat's bottom line, as stated by representatives of this political muscle, they will be motivated by their own ideas about right and wrong. In this regard, some experts predict the new Catalan government a short life.
Aragonès himself says he will follow the path of Scotland, where a referendum was held in 2014 by approbation of UK authorities. Moreover, the new Generalitat head is in comfort with the fact that the Scots favored remaining part of the United Kingdom by a slim margin (55.7% against 44.3%). Aragonès considers the right to self-determination a key aspect in the issue.
Indeed, the Catalans do have an outstanding pattern as represented by a freedom-loving Scotland, which has long been fighting for its independence. At the same time, the ambition of many Scots is closer than ever to being achieved. Especially after the early May regional elections in the UK. The one to sweep in was Nicola Sturgeon's Scottish National Party (SNP), and right after the vote count she said no one could have predicted the scale and record nature of her party's victory. The election did actually make several records: the highest voter turnout in history and the largest number of SNP members in the local parliament. The party won 64 out of the 129 seats.
Historically, independence from Great Britain has been and remains SNP's key objective. For most of the twentieth century it was a minor political party, but the tables have turned now. Under Alex Salmond and then Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP became Scotland's political heavyweight. Many voters are impressed by its center-left beliefs and the social dimension of its policy. As a result, it won some left-wing voters away from the Labor Party, which only ensured 22 Holyrood seats in the May election and poses no major threat to the SNP.
However, the victory in the latest regional elections provides no sufficient guarantee that the SNP wins the right to hold a new referendum on Scottish independence The current Prime Minister of Great Britain, Boris Johnson, is adamantly opposed to holding the referendum and has repeatedly stated he will object it tooth and nail. All the more so as he has the law on his side: Scotland cannot hold a referendum without authorization of the central government. With that in mind, right after the regional election, Johnson said that holding another referendum would be "irresponsible and reckless".
Boris Johnson is apparently well aware that once achieving independence, Edinburgh will unleash hell and encourage Northern Ireland and even Wales subsequently withdraw from the United Kingdom, as separatist tendencies have been gathering meaningful momentum there. Which implies the collapse of the country called the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. This fact is really frightening to official London.
But the Scots do not seem to care a lot about such a sequence of events and keep cherishing the idea of their independence. It is no coincidence that immediately after the May election, Nicola Sturgeon said the following in her acceptance speech: "Given that outcome, there is simply no democratic justification whatsoever for Boris Johnson or anyone else seeking to block the right of the people of Scotland to choose our future. If the Tories make such an attempt it will demonstrate conclusively that the UK is not a partnership of equals and that – astonishingly – Westminster no longer sees the UK as a voluntary union of nations."
The issue has been certainly long discussed by Scottish nationalists who are losing patience with the SNP leadership and urging a more "Catalan" approach, whereupon Scotland could hold a referendum without official London's consent. At the same time, SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon still adheres to legal methods as regards holding a Scottish independence referendum and is ready to wait for the central government's permission.
However, the nationalists are concerned that Sturgeon may miss her chance. A typical thing in politics, it's all up to an offensive impulse, but the political gap between Scotland and England is greater than ever for the time being, especially after Britain's divorce with the European Union (Brexit). Suffice it to recall that the Scots did vote neither for Brexit in 2016, nor for the country's ruling Conservative Party led by Boris Johnson. The reason is simple: the current British Cabinet in London upholds a fundamentally different set of values than the government in Edinburgh. And for this very reason, Scotland's independence chances remain high. It's just a matter of time.