Catalonia's Vote Shows Way to Independence

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Byline: David Williamson

AREFERENDUM staged in the Spanish region of Catalonia has inspired Plaid Cymru activists to believe that a popular movement for Welsh independence is possible.

Supporters of Catalonian independence started this week by staging a vote in 167 hamlets, villages and towns. Around a quarter of eligible Catalans took part and initial results showed a pro-independence vote of more than 90%.

Organisers now aim to stage referendums in other areas of Catalonia, culminating with a vote in Barcelona.

Plaid Cymru MEP Jill Evans was one of a team of international observers.

She was amazed at the level of grassroots organisation, saying: "What's so significant is they did it themselves. It just showed the enthusiasm and demand to move ahead with this."

The referendum is the latest twist in Catalonia's struggle for greater autonomy and comes as fears grow that recently-won freedoms will soon be struck down as unconstitutional.

The mass mobilisation of supporters of greater self-government in Catalonia comes as the SNP pushes for a referendum on independence in Scotland.

Research by pollsters YouGov in October revealed that 14% of people in Wales favoured some form of independence from the United Kingdom.

Ms Evans said she hoped that the grassroots support for more autonomy in European regions such as Catalonia would encourage people in Wales to push for further devolution.

She said: "I hope it makes people think we are not on our own. We are not aspiring to something that's unique."

Her Westminster colleague Adam Price believes pro-independence momentum is building. He said: "There is a race in western Europe to see who will be the first new country to form [since] the creation of the EU."

Describing the impact meeting Catalans had on young Plaid supporters, he said: "Their enthusiasm is infectious. That clearly should be a positive part of our political education as a movement.

We need to create a sense of excitement around the issue of national liberation in Wales.

"It's the most noble political cause you could ever be part of."

Highlighting the differences between Wales and Catalonia, he said: "We do face an uphill struggle because of our history. There is an intrinsic lack of self-belief in Wales.

"It's a problem the Catalan activists clearly do not face. They defeated fascism and once you have done that you're prepared to withstand any obstacle or opponent.

"We will never be able to liberate our country without a popular movement for liberation. It's not political parties that liberate countries - it's people."

His colleague Hywel Williams MP met Catalonian politicians when the Welsh Affairs Select Committee took evidence following the National Assembly's request for new powers over the Welsh language. …