The push for Catalonian independence has been gaining momentum in recent years, and the region finally held a referendum of secession on 1 October, in defiance of the Spanish Supreme Court. Catalan president Carles Puidgemont reported that out of the 2.3 million votes cast, 90 percent had backed independence. While he claims that this gives Catalonia the right to be free from Spain, the Spanish government had declared the referendum illegal in light of the supreme court ruling, and took harsh measures in an attempt to prevent Catalans from voting.
Historically, Catalan as a region has had a separate cultural identity from Spain. The region has its own language, a thousand years worth of history, and a vast population of 7.5 million. Catalonia is also one of the wealthiest regions in Spain and contributes heavily to the economy of the country, with taxes collected in Catalonia often funding other parts of the Spain, causing resentment in Barcalona. Catalan separatists also claims that local culture has been repressed by the state, as the Spanish government aims to make the region more ‘Spanish’.
The desire for independence has been building up in Catalan for at least the last decade. In 2010, the Spanish Constitutional Court made the decision to restrict Catalonian autonomy and tightened control on region, angering the Catalans. Fuelled by regional and nationalistic dissent, Catalonia voted a separatist party into power in 2015, members of which began making plans to hold a referendum of secession.
According to the Spanish constitution however, Spain cannot be divided and no part of Spain is allowed to become its own political entity. Hence, the Spanish government tried to ensure that the vote in Catalan did not go through. During the voting process, media outlets reported on the cruel way Spanish police force were dealing with the Catalan situation. The Spanish police force was seen violently beating voters who were trying to get to polling stations, and an estimated 844 people were injured as a result.
The violence by the Spanish police is likely to fuel Cataloniaís inclination to declare independence, especially with the illegal referendum being in favour of secession. Puidgement has also called for the EU to intervene. However, the European Union has maintained that it is an internal matter, but has expressed its disapproval of the use of violence.