Artur Mas, the President of Catalonia, will tomorrow [27 September] sign a decree calling for an independence referendum on 9 November. The decree will be issued on the basis of a new referendum law passed in the Catalan parliament last Friday.
In a decisive week for the short-term future of Catalan independence, IBTimes UK spoke with Carme Forcadell, president of the Catalan National Assembly [ANC], the organisation behind the mass pro-independence rallies that took millions of people to the streets asking for the right to vote for independence on 11 September.
With more than 51,000 members, the ANC says it's not a political party and does not wish to become one. As Forcadell says, it's a "transversal" organisation with "members from the right, the centre-right, left and extreme left. She claims the ANC will be dissolved the day Catalonia becomes independent.
Here's what she told us:
What is the current status of the Catalan independence process? What are the possible scenarios for 9 November?
We understand that the only way to independence is through the ballot boxes and by answering the questions that four parliamentary groups agreed (The questions will be: Do you want Catalonia to become a State? If yes, do you want this State to become independent?) Of course we are working on different possibilities but now we are focused on this scenario.
The Spanish government has already made clear that it will ask the Constitutional Court of Spain to suspend, and eventually strike down the referendum decree...
We understand that the Constitutional Court doesn't have to decide for us. It's a politicised court; it's impartial and doesn't respect the people of Catalonia. Such an important decision for us cannot be left to the court that ruled against the Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia, which was voted and approved by the Catalan government. The only ones to decide are our legal representatives, our parliament and our government.
Earlier this week a new survey showed that 58.8% would be in favour of statehood and 87.6 would accept the result. What do you think about that?
This is fantastic; the most important data is that almost certainly 90% accept the outcome. This shows that there is no social fracture in Catalonia and that, like many people insinuate, voting won't divide us. It shows that people will accept the results because they are democrats. It shows that the country is extremely cohesive.
You have been accused of a coup and some media have asked for the ANC members to be prosecuted. Furthermore, the Spanish government has hinted that it could suspend Catalonia's Autonomy, and it has been said that Catalonia will be out of the European Union. What do you make of that?
These are only threats. We wish Spain was as democratic as the UK and that talks were negotiated to reach an agreement. But what happens is that in the UK they have 800 years of democratic tradition and Spain barely 35 [the current constitution was signed in 1978]. The policy of Spain, instead of resolving the situation politically, is threatening and scaremongering. Unfortunately Mr. Rajoy is not Mr Cameron. Conflicts in the EU are resolved by voting. And in the 21st century nobody can be forced to join a state against they will - that's what Spain doesn't understand.
What's your opinion on the Scottish independence process?
We understand that they are two very different processes because the referendum in Scotland was led by a political party. In Catalonia the process was started and led by the civil society. It was the civilians who dragged the politicians.
On the other hand, Scotland can tell the world what Scotland is, it exists as a recognised nation. As it is its culture, its way of being and understanding the world. We are not recognised as a nation in Spain because Spain is unicultural, uninational and unilinguistic.
Some people argue that the SNP failed to explain properly about the future of the currency in case of independence and what would happen with the EU.
In our case, we understand that nothing would happen to the currency, there are countries that are not in the EU and have the Euro. The currency is decided by each country. This won't be a problem; we know that we would have the euro.
And regarding the EU membership, this is for the Catalans to decide. I think if we wanted to continue we could, because with its GDP, Catalonia would be a "net contributor" to the EU and that interests Europe. This issue would be resolved politically and wouldn't represent a pitfall in any way.
Is an independent Catalonia economically viable?
Look how viable it would be: We have 16% of Spain's population, we represent 20% of its GDP, and contribute 24% of the government's tax revenues. That tells you how economically viable we would be. Furthermore, Catalonia is the main exporting region of Spain. It's not just us saying that, many reputed economists back this data.
But Catalonia is the most indebted autonomous region of Spain...
Yes, it is the most indebted because it's the highest contributor. Therefore, if we want to have decent services we need to borrow them because our resources go to other regions in Spain. This is the fiscal plundering explained many times. There are 16,000 million euros that go to Spain and do not return. Imagine what we could do with 16,000 million euros extra every year.
Has the crisis boosted the desire for independence?
The economic situation has been an important factor because when there is a deep crisis many people realise this historical injustice that we are living in. But I don't think it has been the main factor. The main factor is respect. We do not feel respected by Spain, and we need a state that is ours. As simple as that.
What would you say to people who affirm that in the 21st century it does not make sense to divide territories and borders?
It's not about borders. Again, the important thing is that everyone feels respected as people and as individuals and for that we need a state that respects us. Then, from our freedom, we can help to improve the world, this is what we Catalans want.
Look, in 1955, when Spain joined the UN, there were 76 state members and everyone said "there cannot be formed anymore because the UN does not fit there". Well, now there are almost 200, and nothing happens.
There is no alternative to an independent state? Federalism maybe?
No, you know what happens? Federate states require two parties, and Spain doesn't want that. Besides, Spain no longer has credibility in Catalonia because historically it has failed all its promises. So the only solution we have is to vote and decide.
And if a majority votes 'no'?
We don't contemplate this option. All the polls in recent years show that people want independence. But we are democrats, and if people vote no we will continue being part of Spain.