'Explaining the differing government responses to self-determination demands in Spain and the UK'

Daniel Cetra, Malcolm Edward Harvey

Research output: Contribution to conferenceUnpublished paper

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This paper explores why the UK Government accepted the principle of a referendum on Scottish independence while the Spanish Government has continued to oppose a similar referendum in Catalonia. Previous literature in territorial politics on these cases has focused on the causes behind the rise in independence support and the characteristics of the independence project, but the issue of the different state responses to the same demand has not received sustained attention.

We propose to fill this gap by examining the factors that explain the different approaches taken by the two governments. We hypothesise that there is something distinctly and significantly different between the two contexts that help explain the divergence. Drawing on literature on party politics, constitutional law, nationalism studies and citizen engagement, we identify a number of plausible factors. These include, but are not limited to, the following: different incentives created by party systems and party competition; different constitutions; different national frames and understandings of the political union; and supply (autonomous institutions) and demand (public opinion) dynamics. We stress throughout the analysis the normative underpinning of political principles and institutional designs. We then move to the second half of the paper, exploring these factors as they are embedded in the particular British and Spanish contexts. The focus is on assessing the significance of the factors pinpointed by the academic literatures in each of the cases. The findings will contribute to the understanding of the different attitudes adopted by the UK and Spanish Governments, and to expanding and refining theory in territorial politics about state responses to independence demands.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 10 Apr 2017
EventPolitical Studies Association (2017) - University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, United Kingdom
Duration: 10 Apr 201712 Apr 2017


ConferencePolitical Studies Association (2017)
Abbreviated titlePSA 2017
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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