Independence challenges: English temperance versus Spanish passion

Stereotypes are supposedly born out of experience and they would portrait a stubborn reality that repeat itself throughout history. But history itself often comes to our rescue and sets against the nonsense the bare truth, which is that there is little logic in most of those stereotypes.

A good case for study is the very different nature of the response given to the challenge, posed by their respective independentists in Scotland and Catalonia, by the British prime minister David Cameron and the Spanish president Mariano Rajoy.

Cameron, in a high-blood pressure reaction to the relentless Scottish first minister Alex Salmond’s threats about holding an independence referendum, closed the matter with a sort of flat hand gesture: if the Scottish National Party does wish to organise a referendum, what is it waiting for?

The British leader entered the arena and hit back with three conditions. The referendum should be legally binding, voting should take place within 18 months, and the question should be crystal clear over a yes or a no to actual independence.

The independentists recoiled more than a wee bit. Of course Salmond accused London of attempting to meddle with Scotland’s affairs, but he had to admit, too, that a significant sector of the Scottish society seeks a better financial system instead of full independence from the United Kingdom. In the end, there will be a third option in the referendum ballot, that is, simply expanded powers for the government of Scotland without separation from the rest of the state.

In Madrid, though, Rajoy has behaved in a much more, let’s say, calmed fashion. The pro-Catalan independence entities staged a demonstration and Artur Mas, the president of the regional government, has since then taken the reigns to make the point that Catalonia would need a state if the Spanish state doesn’t suit it. Rajoy has said nothing.

The deputy president, Sáenz de Santamaría, has been the one among the Spanish cabinet to spell the general sentiment in the central government. She declared that “in a country with five million of unemployed people, one must be extremely careful not to make further mistakes.” The day before the independence demonstration, Rajoy commented that this is not the time for confusion or for “messing around” but for coming together to support economic growth and job creation.

There is no appetite for this sort of row now in Madrid. Moderation appears to be the best answer.

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