World Bulletin/News Desk
Spanish political leaders hailed Scotland's rejection of independence on Friday, a vote that dealt a blow to separatists in Spain's own northeastern region of Catalonia who have drawn inspiration from secessionist Scots.
Despite an outcome in Scotland that was widely seen as a setback for the cause of Catalan independence, the region's separatist-led government was expected to announce plans later on Friday for a non-binding referendum, in defiance of Madrid.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said Scots had "chosen the most favourable option for everyone; for themselves, for all of Britain and for the rest of Europe."
"The Scottish have avoided serious economic, social and political consequences," he said.
He was joined by opposition Socialist leader Pedro Sanchez, who not only praised the result but said it held lessons for Spain: "Scots have chosen self-government, the strengthening of their institutions and of their links with the United Kingdom, and that's the read-through that should be made in Spain."
Unlike London, which agreed to allow Thursday's referendum in Scotland, Madrid has refused to permit a vote on independence for Catalonia, which it says is against the constitution.
A late surge in polls for Scottish independence had galvanised supporters of secession for Catalonia, a wealthy region with its own language and culture whose leaders say they should have the same right to determine their future as Scots.
A long-established Catalan independence movement has grown in recent years as Spain suffered from soaring unemployment and the high costs of its economic crisis. Madrid's refusal to grant a referendum has angered many Catalans, even some who favour continued union with Spain.
Hundreds of thousands of people marched last week in the streets of Barcelona for the right to hold a referendum. Polls show around 80 percent of people in the region of 7.5 million want a say on secession.
Some Catalans said Scotland had provided them with a model to emulate, regardless of the outcome there.
"What is clear here is that people want to vote," said Josep Roda, a 55-year-old lawyer in Barcelona. "Scotland is a good example of allowing people to express their opinion."
But many supporters of independence expressed disappointment at the Scottish result, which saw voters reject independence by a 10 percentage point margin, wider than anticipated in pre-election polls.
"As a Catalan, I would have liked to have seen a 'yes' for independence, because it would have been a boost for us," said Jordi Prosa, a 54-year-old business administrator in Barcelona.
Spain's cost of borrowing fell as markets viewed the 'no' vote as reducing prospects of a breakaway for Catalonia. Spanish 10-year yields were 9 basis points lower at 2.19 percent.
The Catalan government is expected to give the green light on Friday to a law enabling a vote on independence. It is now pencilled in for Nov. 9, although it is not certain whether regional leader Artur Mas will stick to that timetable.
Mas is under pressure from his coalition partners to go ahead with a referendum even if it is declared illegal.
"Mas could decide to delay the approval of the decree for strategic reasons," said Antonio Barroso, analyst at Teneo Intelligence. "Regardless, his decision will be the trigger that will set in motion the legal machinery of the Spanish state."
"It is unlikely that he would opt for defying Madrid as holding the vote illegally would undermine Catalan credibility internationally," he added.Last Mod: 19 Eylül 2014, 15:27