Alex Salmond has sparked the ire of some Catalan nationalists after cautioning against a unilateral declaration of independence or UDI.

Over the last week the former first minister has called on Spanish and European leaders to recognise that Catalonia has a right to decide its future in a referendum.

But he also urged independence supporters to “calm souch" - to keep calm and carry on - in what has been understood in Catalonia as note of caution on UDI.

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Independence supporters last month won Catalan general elections on a platform of UDI after Conservative rulers in Madrid refused to allow a Scottish-style referendum.

Two pro-independence slates secured a majority of seats - but not votes - in what some but not all parties regarded as a proxy plebiscite.

However, their 48 per cent tally was far higher than the 39 per won by anti-independence tickets with parties ambivalent on the constitution making up the rest of the votes.

 

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Some SNP observers believe that 48 per cent should be enough for Spain to drop its legalistic opposition to a Scottish vote - but that it may not be enough to push through UDI.

The Scottish Government, with backing from at least one prominent unionist, has even offered to mediate in the dispute with Madrid.

And they have urged the European Union and other bodies to bring the two sides in Iberia together  to sort out some kind of Scottish solution.

Mr Salmond said:  "International commentators, whether sympathetic like myself or hostile like David Cameron,  should support the right of the people to choose their own future; the interventions of President Obama, David Cameron and the European Commission in Spain will have little impact on opinion and are likely to stoke resentment."

But many Catalan nationalists believe there is no prospect of a referendum. Catalan President Artur Mas, after all, has been summoned to court accused of civil disobedience even for organising a putative street consultation on independence in November last year. That event - essentially little more than a giant protest - was judged illegal under Spain's anti-separatist constitution.

 

HeraldScotland: Junts Pel Si (Together For Yes) supporters wave flags while Catalan President Artur Mas and other politicians take the stage after polls closed in a regional parliamentary election in Barcelona REUTERS/Sergio Perez

So Mr Salmond's intervention has not gone down well with some Catalan independence supporters, especially given his previous silence on the issue. One source described his attitude as "condescending".

Writing in Vilaweb, a successful digital newspaper in Barcelona, Vicent Partal said Mr Salmond's attitude to the November 2014 poll was "very poor".

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Mr Partal said: "Salmond always avoided the slightest reference to Catalonia and left as much distance as possible with the argument that his had been a legal referendum.

"This was a position that deeply disturbed the Catalan parties, especially knowing that there had been contacts with the Spanish government regarding possible recognition if the independentists won the Scottish referendum.

Mr Partal added: "By offering themselves as mediators [the Scots] wish to promote and gain value for their experience when avoiding what everyone sees coming to Brussels: an enormous constitutional crisis in Spain and in the EU. This is to say once more: ‘we are the goodies’, and to go strutting around."

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So Mr Salmond is calling for a referendum just after his theoretical Catalan allies have given up on the idea. Mr Partal said he expected governments like Scotland's to play realpolitik. He said: "In the case of Salmond it is at least surprising that he has come to give us lessons, suggesting something that will never happen, just when we have given up on this possibility."

Two slates running in last month's vote were deeply ambivalent over independence (they asked that their votes be counted as Don't Knows in the proxy indyref) but said they favoured a referendum. They include Podem, the Catalan wing of the anti-establishment party Podemos, which did badly in the elections, and Unió, the Conservative regionalists who failed to win a single seat. Both these parties latched on to Mr Salmond's words.

It has always been David Cameron - and not Alex Salmond - who has been the unionist pin-up in Catalonia. Why? Because Mr Cameron can be used as a unionist with democratic credentials to attack Spain's ruling Conservative PP.

HeraldScotland: MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 05: Prime minister David Cameron listens to Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne address the Conservative party conference on October 5, 2015 in Manchester, England. The second day of the 2015 autumn conference is being

The SNP has recently shown far more interest in Catalonia. Party sources believe a referendum, perhaps with backing from outside Iberia, offers the best hope.

A potentially messy UDI, after all, could underline the difficulties of independence just when they are trying to put together a second vote. They also believe their view is shared by many within the Junts pel Si coalition - the main grouping of Catalan "independentistes" - despite public irritation with the stance.

There are also Catalans who feel the same way as Mr Salmond about a referendum and hope pressure, including international pressure, can force Spain in to allowing a legally binding one like Scotland's.

Quim Aranda, a London-based correspondent who interviewed the former first minister in recent days, tweeted: "A referendum is the only way" after seeing Mr Partal's criticism.

 


 

Mr Salmond declared at the weekend in El Punt Avui that Catalonia would get the "right to decide", the long coveted referendum. The story, by Mr Aranda, went straight on to page 1.

HeraldScotland: Mr Salmond on page 1 of El Punt AvuiMr Salmond on page 1 of El Punt Avui

The former first minister has effectively positioned himself in the middle of an internal tactical debate among Catalan independence supporters.

Daniel Cetrà, Research Fellow at the Centre on Constitutional Change in Edinburgh, said: "The reactions to the interview with Salmond have not been unanimous.

"Some Catalan nationalists have put an emphasis on the fact that Salmond (finally) talked about the Catalan case, and that he said he hopes Catalonia gets its right to decide on independence.

Mr Cetrà, a Catalan, added: "After all, Salmond claims that the election results in a mandate for a negotiated referendum, which is something that most Catalans want.

"It is true that Junts pel Sí defends a unilateral roadmap to independence, but, given the complexities of unilateral independence, they would almost certainly be open to negotiate the conditions of a binding referendum."

Mr Salmond's apparent lack of interest has long soured relations between the two pro-independence camps in either country.

One detail in the former first minister's most recent contribution, an interview on TV3, the main Catalan language channel, summed up his lack of familiarity with Iberian politics and life: he talked of "Catalonians" rather than Catalans.  "We don't call you Scotlanders," remarked one person who watched the interview.

Mr Partal, meanwhile, stressed that grassroots support for the Catalan independence movement remained strong.

He summed up his Vilaweb article: "Needless to say, Mr Salmond's position has nothing to do with the sincere support of so many people of Scotland who have  come these days in friendly and exciting support for which we will never be sufficiently grateful."

Mr Salmond's full TV3 interview with correspondent Carles Costa can be viewed right here: