This weekend a referendum is being held on Catalonian independence. While I certainly respect the view that the Catalans should be allowed to choose their own fate. However I do worry if this referendum is more a reaction to austerity policies from the right wing government in Madrid, rather than due to an actual desire for independence. At the risk of sounding like Alastair Darling, but independence is for life not just till we kick out the right wing penny pinching ba$£ards! :))
One cannot help but notice that while Scottish independence has enjoyed support in the region of 30 40% for quite a few decades, Catalonian independence rated at less than 30% until the last few years.
And what derailed Scottish independence was the fact that it became clear the SNP hadnt worked out the basics, such as what currency Scots would use or how they would join the EU. Similarly one has to ask the Catalonian independence supporters, if you get independence what currency do you plan on using?
Please dont say the Euro, because I think youll find you have to be an EU member for that. To join the EU would take time, years at the least and that assumes the rest of Spain co-operates. And the noises coming out of Madrid suggest they will not. In the mean time Catalonia would be in economic limbo…or possibly economic freefall. No sane bank nor financial institution could base itself here knowing there was no lender of last resort and the government in Catalonian lacked even the most basic controls over its own economy. Keep in mind here that the services sector is 67% of the Catalonian economy.
Then theres more fundamental problems, e.g. who will pay the pensions of retirees or unemployed persons in Catalonia? The SNP, to their credit, had worked out a plan for this one, but I dont hear anything from Catalonia. One assumes Madrid would be pretty quick to turn off the tap and thats going to be hugely disruptive to many peoples lives (as in old dears living on charity and eating cat food sort of thing) and would probably lead to rioting and unrest pretty quickly.
And if the Catalan government plans to pick up the tab, wheres the money going to come from? Can they afford it? Presumably theyll borrow in the short term, then rely on taxes, but who would lend them money? Scotland had its oil and high value exports to rely on, neither of which are options for Catalonia. It would be likely paying the sort of credit card interest rates Greece was being charged during the height of the Eurozone crisis, which would be unsustainable.
And what about power, water, transportation? Many of these things are administered by companies or state bodies based outside of the region (again, not the case for Scotland), what if the rest of Spain decides to just turn all these services off? One assumes a rather thirsty Catalonian PM will emerge within a few days with a white flag and his tail between his legs.
There are two nuclear power plants in Catalonia, although I cant help but notice that they are owned by companies based outside of Catalonia. Now in theory, theres nothing to stop said company exporting power from these plants to Spain (assuming the Spanish pay for it with their Euros of course) while Catalonians sit in the dark. One assumes the Catalonians could cease control of the plants and nationalise them, although that in itself opens a can of worms.
One of those issues regarding Scottish independence was the topic of nuclear waste. My assumption was that the rUK would agree to take responsibility for such waste. As a nuclear armed state, the UK is obliged by various international treaties to take care of its nuclear material, particularly anything that could have bomb making potential. And given the issues surrounding Dounreay, that would more or less oblige the rUK to do the right thing.
However, Scotland also has four commercial nuclear power stations. One assumes that while the rUK would take over the waste from these plants as well. But it would only be fair and reasonable to expect the Scottish government to pay some, if not most, of the decommissioning costs of these plants (about £2 billion per plant!). As well as paying some additional amount to the rUK to cover its costs for long term disposal and storage costs of said waste. One of the things I was always curious regarding Scottish independence is how the SNP, and their generally anti-nuclear supporters, would react to the dropping of this Lead balloon! 88|
However in Catalonia the situation is very different. Spain is not under the same obligations as the UK and has very limited capabilities to handle its own nuclear waste (which is one of the reasons the country has stopped building reactors) let alone that of what would now be a foreign country. There are btw no waste handling facilities within Catalonia (meaning they couldnt even operate the plants, nor even safely shut them down without help from Spain!). In theory the Spanish might well just toss the keys to the plant at the Catalonians, tell them its youre plant now…oh and FYI dont open the doors to the warehouse out back unless you fancy earning an instant suntan! Can the Catalans handle/manage a sizable pile of nuclear waste? What are they going to do with it? How are they planning on paying for its disposal?
Again, Im not saying Catalonia isnt entitled to independence. Im merely asking the awkward questions that I fear nobody in the country is asking. Because if they cant come up with some answers theyll either find themselves unable to gain independence, or forced to rely so much on the rest of Spain it will render their independence practically moot.