New book: Nationalist Politics and Regional Financing Systems in the Basque Country and Catalonia

czaghnyxgaazatfNationalist Politics and Regional Financing Systems in the Basque Country and Catalonia, a new book by Caroline Gray based on her PhD research, is now available for free download.

The book has been published by Ad Concordiam in their doctoral thesis collection. Bilbao-based Ad Concordiam is a non-for-profit association that seeks to promote understanding about the Basque Economic Agreement with Spain.

Download it here:

An interview with Caroline (in Spanish) about her PhD research, conducted by Ad Concordiam, is available here:



Transforming Politics in Spain: Local, Regional and State-wide Perspectives

University of Liverpool, 7 June 2016

Workshop photo

This one-day workshop, sponsored by UACES, Liverpool University’s Europe and the World Centre, and Aberystwyth University’s Department of International Politics, brought together scholars and practitioners from the UK and Spain to examine the transformation of politics in Spain in recent years. This has seen many established political parties lose electoral support and government office, and the growth of new and previously marginal political actors advocating a radically different way of doing and talking about politics.

A series of roundtable discussions focused on the role of three key drivers of political change: the economic crisis, a territorial crisis as a result of the Catalan challenge to the integrity of the Spanish state, and a political crisis characterised by widespread disillusionment with existing political institutions and actors. Contributors to the first roundtable, Economic Crisis and Political Transformation, outlined the particular features of the economic crisis in Spain (influenced by the specificities of the country’s economic model), and the nature of political responses to it. The discussion reflected on the extent to which European intervention in the Spanish economy has affected the fiscal autonomy of local, regional and central governments, and influenced popular attitudes towards the European project.

The second roundtable, Old and New Party Politics in Spain, examined the drivers and consequences of shifting patterns of party competition in Spain. An analysis of public opinion data provided insights into the demographic, generational, social and territorial trends in voter behaviour that have led to a shift from two-party to increasingly multi-party politics. This provided the context for focusing in more detail on the electoral fortunes and political prospects of old and new political parties. Contributors presented new research on the Spanish Socialists, the anti-austerity Podemos, and Barcelona en Comú which is transforming politics in this Catalan city.

Challenging Spain’s Territorial Model was the theme of the third roundtable. The Catalan secessionist process was a key theme here, and an analysis of state-wide party responses to this challenge to the central state highlighted the lack of a serious or consensus alternative to independence demands. But it was also argued that the issue of Catalan independence is only the most recent symptom of a much more profound and long-standing crisis of Spain’s model for managing territorial relations. The new research presented pointed to the growing disparity between territorial interests and behaviours within Spain, with the implication that solutions for reforming the current territorial model are unlikely to satisfy all, or even most, territorial actors.

The workshop concluded with a session on Academics, Political Engagement and the Future Research Agenda. A new study of the role of academics in the 2015 Spanish general election highlighted the opportunities and risks for scholars keen to engage with popular political debate. The discussion led to a broader reflection on the key research challenges for scholars of Spanish politics, and the identification of possible areas for future research collaboration. A priority is to understand the complex inter-relationship between economic, social, territorial and political drivers of Spain’s current transformation. This requires an ambitious multi-disciplinary and multi-scalar approach, and the workshop provided an excellent starting point for mapping out such a new project.

Transforming Politics in Spain – Call for contributions


Foresight Centre, University of Liverpool, UK

7th June 2016

Workshop supported by the University Association for Contemporary European Studies, Aberystwyth University and the University of Liverpool

Organisers: Dr. Anwen Elias (Aberystwyth University) and Prof. Richard Gillespie (Liverpool University)

The workshop aims to examine the transformation of local, regional and state-wide politics in Spain in recent years, which has seen many established political parties lose electoral support and government office and the growth of new and previously marginal political actors advocating a radically different way of doing and talking about politics. Scholars interested in contributing to the workshop should submit a 200 word abstract to Dr. Anwen Elias ( and Prof. Richard Gillespie ( by Monday 25th April 2016.

For full details, please download the Call for contributions

New Scottish Research Network on Contested Identities

GlasgowA new project on ‘Contested Identities’ has been launched in Scotland to bring together researchers who work on Scotland, Ireland, Wales, the Basque Country, Catalonia and Galicia. Funded by the Royal Society of Edinburgh, the RSEproject is led by Professor Kathryn Crameri, Chair of Hispanic Studies at the University of Glasgow.

Expressions of interest from researchers based in Scotland are invited for the first workshop which will take place on Friday 15 April at the University of Glasgow.

Contributions are welcome from any area of the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, including Anthropology, Cultural and Media Studies, Film and TV, Heritage and Museums, History, Literature and Theatre, Politics, Psychology, Sociolinguistics and Sociology.

The purpose of the network is to create genuine dialogue and collaboration resulting in an edited volume and/or special journal issue, and further grant applications. The RSE funding covers two years of workshops and events, including a final public event in conjunction with Beyond Borders Scotland.

Areas the network might address include:

Identity – belonging – affect – sameness and difference – images and narratives of the nation – performance – transnational relationships – globalisation – traditional and new media – cultural production – the ‘small nation’ – cultural diplomacy – culture and politics – independence movements – history and memory – language.

For further details, please download the Call for Participation or visit

Contact: Kathryn Crameri (

New Research Brief on South Tyrol

A new Evolving Nationalism Research Brief, by Matthias Scantamburlo and Günther Pallaver (University of Innsbruck), is now available for download:

No. 3 (Matthias Scantamburlo and Günther Pallaver): Between Secession and “Full Autonomy”: Party Competition over Self-Determination in South Tyrol

The research brief examines centre-periphery dynamics in Italy in relation to South Tyrol, focusing on the response of the hegemonic pro-autonomy South Tyrolean People’s Party (SVP) to increasing competition from secessionist parties.

See Research Briefs section for more information on the series. The editors welcome proposals for contributions.

New book

Contesting Spain? The Dynamics of Nationalist Movements in Catalonia and the Basque Country

9781857438062Published 13th July 2015

Edited by Richard Gillespie and Caroline Gray, this book offers a series of contributions exploring the dynamics behind contemporary shifts in the orientation of the Catalan and Basque nationalist parties and movements in Spain.

Versions of the chapters were originally published in Nationalism and Ethnic Politics, Volume 21, Issue 1, 2015.

New Evolving Nationalism Research Briefs Series

EvoNat Research Brief No.1_Gillespie_thumbWe are pleased to launch a new series of Evolving Nationalism (EvoNat) Research Briefs, to be made available through this website ( The Research Briefs will examine a range of issues surrounding the rise in sovereignty-based demands among movements based in the stateless nations and regions of western Europe. They are aimed at government bodies, political parties, business, international organisations, media professionals, NGOs and think tanks.

The first two research briefs, authored by series editors Richard Gillespie and Caroline Gray (University of Liverpool), are now available here:

No. 1 (Richard Gillespie): Pro-European nationalist parties and EU negativity: The place of Europe in Basque and Catalan sovereignty politics

No. 2 (Caroline Gray): The EU and substate fiscal autonomy, obstacle or opportunity? Lessons from the Basque region of Spain

Further contributions to the series by invited authors on a range of nations and regions will be published in the coming months.

Second Workshop on the Dynamics of Nationalist Evolution

‘Sovereignty Formulas between Autonomy and Independence: Towards a Reconfiguration of Europe?’

Foresight Centre, University of Liverpool, 14-15 May 2015

IMG_1590This second ESRC-funded workshop on the ‘Dynamics of Nationalist Evolution’ went beyond the original Catalan and Basque focus of the project to include and compare other European experiences. Held at the University of Liverpool, it brought together some 20 academic experts and practitioners. Several of the papers examined or compared the proposals presented by nationalist parties aimed at attaining degrees of political sovereignty or fiscal decentralization for the territories in which their national communities are based. They analysed the drivers behind such proposals and/or considered whether there was scope for accommodating further enhancements of autonomy and home rule within member state and EU contexts.

The programme looked predominantly at the Scottish, Basque, Catalan and Italian cases but also included focuses on Belgium, constitutional changes and policy adjustments within EU member-states and the global and European contexts in which sovereignty formulas have been put forward (paper titles below).

The key points made in the workshop papers are being summarised in our new series of Evolving Nationalism Research Briefs, soon to be launched and made available through this site. Watch this space!


Peter Lynch (University of Stirling) ‘The Scottish National Party’s sovereignty formula for the 2014 independence referendum’

Anwen Elias (Aberystwyth University) ‘The credibility of stateless nationalist and regionalist parties in pursuit of constitutional change: Evidence from Catalonia and Scotland’

Eve Hepburn (University of Edinburgh) ‘The push for independence in the Italian regions: Comparing Veneto and Sardinia’

Matthias Scantamburlo and Günther Pallaver (University of Innsbruck) ‘Between secession and “full autonomy”: Party competition over self-determination in South Tyrol’

Jean-Benoit Pilet (Université Libre de Bruxelles) and Régis Dandoy (Université Catholique de Louvain) ‘A regionalist party in the capital of Europe: The policy and institutional agenda of the FDF’

César Colino (Spanish National Distance-Learning University, UNED) ‘Federal constitutional reforms under the threat of secession? Conditions and options for a renewed federalism in Spain’

Eduardo J. Ruiz Vieytez (University of Deusto, Bilbao) ‘Minorities seeking sovereignty: A proposal for the regulation of sovereigntist processes’

Richard Gillespie (University of Liverpool) ‘Pro-European nationalist parties and EU negativity: The place of Europe in Basque and Catalan sovereignty politics’

Caroline Gray (University of Liverpool) ‘The role of the EU in the development of substate fiscal autonomy, obstacle or opportunity? The case of the Basque region in Spain’

Alan Trench (Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law) ‘Obstacles to decentralisation: The practical problems of devolving tax and welfare policies in the United Kingdom’

Edward Hugh (independent economist), ‘European identity and the Euro crisis: The fiscal limitations facing federalist aspirations’

BritishSpanish Society/BBVA Scholarship Award

Caroline receiving her award from Mr Philip Paddack of BBVA at the Spanish Embassy in London

Caroline receiving her award from Mr Philip Paddack of BBVA at the Spanish Embassy in London

PhD candidate Caroline Gray has won the 2015 BBVA Scholarship from the BritishSpanish Society for her work on fiscal decentralisation and territorial politics in Spain.

The 2015 Scholarship Awards Ceremony was hosted by the Ambassador of Spain to the United Kingdom at his residence in London in May 2015, where Caroline was presented her award by Mr Philip Paddack of BBVA.

The BritishSpanish Society is a registered charity and a non-political organisation which aims to promote friendship and understanding between the people of Britain and Spain through knowledge of their respective customs, institutions, history and way of life. It runs an annual scholarship programme for postgraduate students thanks to the generous support of corporate and institutional sponsors. The scholarships are awarded on the basis of academic merit to British and Spanish students to pursue postgraduate studies and, in the process, foster British-Spanish understanding between individuals and institutions.

Further details of the 2015 scholars are available on the BritishSpanish Society website here.

Fiscal Sovereignty and Nationalist Politics

photo 1On Friday 17th April Caroline Gray participated in the ESRC Final Year PhD Student Conference held at the University of Oxford and presented a poster outlining her research on the impact of the regional financing models in Spain on the evolution of the territorial agendas of the Basque and Catalan nationalist parties.

Spain offers the opportunity to compare two different models of fiscal decentralisation in relation to two different nationalist movements. While Catalonia forms part of the common financing system which gives the regions relatively limited tax-raising competences and involves financial transfers from central government, the Basque CarolineGray_poster2015_thumbregion raises almost all of its own taxes under a separate system of substantial fiscal autonomy (the Concierto Económico or Economic Agreement).

The aim is to contribute to a fuller understanding of this subject in Spain itself but also to provide lessons for the UK as it begins to devolve greater fiscal powers to Scotland. What can the UK learn from the experiences of Spain in fiscal decentralisation and its consequences for both the fiscal management of the country and the evolution of nationalist movements?

Download a copy of Caroline’s poster here.

The poster is also available via the University of Liverpool’s online poster day here. To comment on Caroline’s research topic, log in using username postersonline and password postersonline and search for poster 81. All feedback is welcome. The event is open until 9th May.

Professor Richard Gillespie speaks on the UK and Scotland at Basque Parliament committee

RG in Basque Parliament 4On April 15th, Richard Gillespie appeared before Committee on Self-Government of the Basque Parliament in Vitoria. He provided Basque MPs with an analysis of the UK experience of the Scottish referendum and then responded to questions about the significance of the event for Basque and Catalan aspirations to greater autonomy or RG in Basque Parliament 5independence. Richard was followed by former Basque prime minister Juan José Ibarretxe, who had given a keynote address at the University of Liverpool on March 26th and made reference to his visit during his own presentation. The session was streamed live through the website of the Basque Parliament (video coverage available here).

New publication on Basque and Catalan nationalist dynamics

fnep20.v021.i01.coverA special issue of Nationalism and Ethnic Politics entitled ‘Contesting Spain? The Dynamics of Nationalist Movements in Catalonia and the Basque Country’ is available here. Guest-edited by Richard Gillespie and Caroline Gray, the collection explores the dynamics behind contemporary shifts in the orientation of nationalist parties and movements between pragmatic accommodationism and bids to assert claims to national sovereignty.


‘Between Accommodation and Contestation: The Political Evolution of Basque and Catalan Nationalism’ Richard Gillespie

‘When do Countries Re-centralize? Ideology and Party Politics in the Age of Austerity’ Diego Muro

‘Nationalist Politics at the Crossroads: The Basque Nationalist Party and the Challenge of Sovereignty (1998-2014)’ Ludger Mees

‘A Fiscal Path to Sovereignty? The Basque Economic Agreement and Nationalist Politics’ Caroline Gray

‘Catalan Independence and the Challenge of Credibility: The Causes and Consequences of Catalan Nationalist Parties’ Strategic Behaviour’ Anwen Elias

‘Political Power and Civil Counterpower: The Complex Dynamics of the Catalan Nationalist Movement’ Kathryn Crameri

‘The Evolution of Sub-state Nationalist Parties as Statewide Parliamentary Actors: CiU and PNV in Spain’ Bonnie N. Field

A book version will follow, published by Routledge within its Europa Country Perspectives series.

The contributions are based on papers originally presented at a workshop held at the Barcelona Centre for International Affairs (CIDOB) in September 2014, organised as part of the research project at the University of Liverpool on ‘The Dynamics of Nationalist Evolution in Contemporary Spain’.

Seminar: ‘An End to the Basque Conflict?’

This one-day seminar at the University of Liverpool on Thursday, 26 March 2015 will focus on the nature of the Basque conflict and why it is still proving so difficult to resolve.

Dr Juan José Ibarretxe, former President of the Basque Autonomous Community (Agirre Center for Social and Political Studies) will provide the keynote speech. Other speakers will include Professor Xabier Irujo (Manuel Irujo Visiting Fellow, University of Liverpool 2014-15; University of Nevada, Reno); Dr Iñigo Urrutia (University of the Basque Country); Dr Kevin Bean (University of Liverpool); Professor Richard Gillespie (University of Liverpool); and Amaia Agirre (Agirre Center for Social and Political Studies).

The event is a collaborative initiative between the School of Histories, Languages and Cultures ― involving the department of Modern Languages and Cultures, the department of Politics, and the Manuel Irujo Fellowship in Basque Studies ― and two external partners which are the University of the Basque Country, and the Agirre Lehendakaria Center for Social and Political Studies.

Please click here for the full programme and event details.

All are welcome to attend. 

Pro-Sovereignty Processes Compared: Catalonia and the Basque Country

photo 1The first workshop of the Nationalisms in Spain project was held on 25th-26th September, organised by Richard Gillespie and Caroline Gray of the University of Liverpool and hosted by the Barcelona Centre for International Affairs (CIDOB).

The workshop addressed the complex dynamics affecting the nature of the Basque and Catalan nationalist movements in contemporary Spain, exploring the extent to which there has been continuity or change in these dynamics in recent decades. In this context, particular attention was paid to the behaviour of mainstream nationalist parties in relation to the wider nationalist movements. What has caused the return to prominence of national and sovereignty-based challenges to the Spanish state in recent years? What factors underlie shifts in the relationships of the Basque and Catalan nationalist parties with central government over time?

IMG_2469After a welcome address by CIDOB director Jordi Bacaria, Richard Gillespie opened the sessions with an introductory paper outlining the conceptual and analytical basis to inform the workshop. This provided a common point of departure for the series of presentations and contributions made by participants in the panels that followed over the two days. All presentations, whether they offered a case study or were comparative in nature, were designed to facilitate comparison between the Basque and Catalan cases while acknowledging significant differences in their circumstances and approaches.

Centre-periphery dynamics formed a key subject of analysis. Participants presented papers that investigated the strategic choices of nationalist parties as statewide parliamentary actors in relation to their territorial strategies in their home regions (Bonnie Field, Bentley University) and conflicts between central and regional governments over the IMG_2472evolution and conception of the regional financing models in Euskadi and Catalonia (Caroline Gray, University of Liverpool). Spanish state responses to the financial crisis in terms of recentralising dynamics perceived alternately as rationalisation were explored as part of a wider consideration of when and why decentralised countries seek to recentralise (Diego Muro, IBEI).

This focus was complemented by studies of internal dynamics within the Basque and Catalan regions themselves. Addressing party-society relations, participants explored the extent to which the choices, actions and discourse of political elites can be seen to influence societal preferences and identities in nationalist mobilisation processes (Astrid Barrio, Universidad de Valencia; Rafael Leonisio, Universidad del País Vasco; Alejandro Quiroga, Universidad de Alcalá) and examined what mobilises collective action (Meritxell Martínez, Universidad del País Vasco). The traditional reigning dichotomy in the existing literature between “top-down” and “bottom-up” dynamics was, however, also problematised to reconceive of these as processes of “co-construction” (Kathryn Crameri, University of Glasgow).

In addition to party-society relations, due consideration was given to the role and significance of party competition and relations (outbidding or reinforcing) between nationalist and pro-independence parties in determining their behavioural patterns, IMG_2473territorial strategies and degree of success (Anwen Elias, Aberystwyth University; Ludger Mees, Universidad del País Vasco; Stuart Durkin, Aberdeen University). This also involved an exploration of the relationship between the traditional left-right axis of competition and the territorial dimension in determining nationalist party strategies (Braulio Gómez, Universidad de Deusto).

A selection of papers and findings from the workshop will be published by Routledge as a special issue of the journal Nationalism and Ethnic Politics in early 2015, co-edited by Richard Gillespie and Caroline Gray.

The organisers would like to express their warm thanks to CIDOB for their collaboration to ensure the smooth running of the event and to all participants and their co-authors for providing a series of insightful studies that generated stimulating debate.

Call for Papers – Nationalisms in Europe

2nd Workshop on the Dynamics of Nationalist Evolution in Contemporary Europe

Funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)

‘Sovereignty Formulas between Autonomy and Independence: Towards a Reconfiguration of Europe?’

Foresight Centre, University of Liverpool, 14-15 May 2015 (provisional)


This workshop aims to bring together academic experts and policy practitioners to examine proposals presented by nationalist parties aimed at attaining degrees of political or fiscal sovereignty for the territories in which their national communities are based. It will consider the drivers behind such proposals and consider whether there is scope for accommodating further enhancements of autonomy and home rule within member state and EU contexts. Are these nationalist-led processes (and contemporaneous wider regional assertiveness) the first steps towards a reconfiguration of Europe?

The holding of a referendum on independence in Scotland and attempts to hold one in Catalonia, together with earlier moves by Basque nationalists advocating a ‘right to decide’, make the UK and Spain key international reference points for proposals ranging from ‘Devo-max’ to ‘co-sovereignty’. The workshop will focus mainly on the agendas of Scottish, Basque and Catalan parties but we also welcome comparative and European-centred studies and other case studies that have had European resonance.

Over-arching questions also include:

  • To what extent are the challenges to existing state structures attributable to nationalism, as opposed to other less identity-based drivers?
  • Are demands for fiscal sovereignty easier to accommodate than those for political forms of sovereignty?
  • Are nationalist demands for partial or co-sovereignty realisable in an interdependent Europe?
  • What are the prospects of negotiation and compromise between political forces engaged in referendum confrontations?
  • Is there a prospect of decentralising demands leading to stable new governance structures in Europe, or are interests and agendas so incompatible that even the attempt to negotiate territorial reform might actually fuel fragmentation in the medium-to-longer term?

We welcome proposals by email to both organisers (below) consisting of brief CV (one page maximum) and abstract (300 words).

Deadline: 30 September 2014

Richard Gillespie

Caroline Gray     

Follow this blog to receive future updates.

Talk on Scotland’s Referendum at the University of the Basque Country – watch it here

CGrayCaroline Gray, currently visiting researcher in Basque politics at the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU), was invited to give a talk to staff and students on Scotland and its upcoming referendum. The event was held on 12th May and organised by Ludger Mees, Professor of Contemporary History at the University of the Basque Country. Caroline gave a quick tour of Scottish and British history in order to situate the rise of Scottish nationalism since the mid twentieth century within the historical context of the evolution of Unionism and Britishness. This was followed by an outline of the main debates and prospects ahead of the Scottish Independence Referendum on 18th September 2014. Caroline pointed to parallels and contrasts between Scotland and the cases of the Basque Country and Catalonia in Spain, which were then discussed further in a question and answer session. Thanks to all who attended for their contribution and to UPV/EHU for the invitation.

Watch and listen to Caroline’s presentation here:


Click here to download the powerpoint slides in pdf format:

Powerpoint slides

Project Update: Interviews in the Basque Country and Catalonia

Richard Gillespie and Caroline Gray are pleased to report widespread participation in their project by experts and practitioners identified with the Catalan and Basque political processes, and would like to thank all contributors for their willingness and time.

Richard and Caroline’s ongoing fieldwork activities have so far resulted in dozens of interviews with parliamentarians, party representatives and veterans, civil society activists, and economic and financial experts.

With former lehendakari José Antonio Ardanza

With former lehendakari José Antonio Ardanza

While most political participants to date have been from nationalist parties and coalitions (the PNV, EA and Bildu in the Basque Country; CiU, ERC, CUP and Reagrupament in Catalonia), interviews have also taken place with a wider range of party representatives, including parties on the right (PP) and on the left (PSC-PSOE, ICV). It is hoped to gain access eventually to all parties that have played influential roles in Basque and Catalan political life over the last quarter-century to reflect the broad spectrum across the party systems.

With former lehendakari Juan José Ibarretxe

With former lehendakari Juan José Ibarretxe

Some of those who have kindly agreed to take part in the project thus far have been involved in political life at the highest levels. They have included the former Catalan presidents Jordi Pujol and José Montilla, former Catalan vice-president Josep-Lluís Carod-Rovira and former Basque presidents José Antonio Ardanza and Juan José Ibarretxe. Other participants have included prominent civil society actors in Catalonia, such as Miriam Casals (president of Òmnium Cultural) and Carme Forcadell (president of the Catalan National Assembly).

With Pedro Luis Uriarte and  the official Concierto agreement of 1980 (approved by law in 1981)

With Pedro Luis Uriarte and the official Concierto agreement of 1980 (approved by law in 1981)

In addition to the focus on political processes, the project is looking at how different financing arrangements in Catalonia and the Basque Country have influenced debates about their relationships with Spain. While Catalonia forms part of a central-regional revenue-sharing system in Spain, the Basque region has a longstanding tradition of fiscal autonomy (as does Navarre). Under the Concierto Económico, the three Basque provincial authorities are responsible for tax collection in the autonomous community of Euskadi. Caroline has had the privilege of discussing the system with current representatives of the Treasury and Finance Department of the provincial government of Bizkaia as well as with Pedro Luis Uriarte, former CEO of BBVA and previously Basque Treasury Minister under the first Basque government (1980-1984) following Spain’s transition to democracy. Uriarte headed the Basque delegation that successfully negotiated with Madrid to restore the Concierto in 1981 to the provinces of Bizkaia and Gipuzkoa (after General Franco had abolished it in both in 1937 during the Spanish civil war) and update it for the province of Alaba.

Michael Keating and Andrew Dowling on Scotland and Catalonia – event summary and audio excerpts

On 21st November the University of Liverpool hosted a symposium on the Scottish and Catalan independence debates. As Scotland prepares for a referendum in September 2014 and Spain faces calls in Catalonia for a similar consultation, the two respective debates on the question of independence have acquired a fundamentally different nature. We would like to thank speakers Professor Michael Keating and Dr Andrew Dowling for addressing these differences and all the attendees for their participation in the question and answer sessions.

Professor Keating, head of the new ESRC Scottish Centre on Constitutional Change based at Edinburgh University, opened the symposium by outlining the most salient questions in the Scottish case. Why has support for independence remained remarkably stable at around 30% since 1992? How has this figure resisted change during a period in which the SNP has enjoyed tremendous electoral success, Scotland has acquired its own parliament, a majority of the population has since expressed support for enhanced autonomy for Scotland, and a fierce debate has taken place over the merits or otherwise of independence? And why does the English population seem so relaxed about the possible referendum outcome? How can we explain the relatively restrained and non-divisive nature of the independence debate in the UK in comparison with the Catalan case in Spain?

To answer these questions, Keating explained the current nation-building project in Scotland as a consequence of the historical evolution and eventual decline of the language and ideology of unionism and Britishness, which in more recent times has coincided with fundamental state transformation processes in Europe. In the main section of the presentation that follows, he discusses these developments and their effect on levels of support for the different constitutional options that Scotland faces:

Keating closed his presentation by outlining the main issues in the current referendum debate and presenting his view on the most likely outcome, as follows:

Tackling the Catalan case, Dr Andrew Dowling of Cardiff University explained how the pro-independence movement is much newer in Catalonia than in Scotland. Traditionally Catalan nationalism was pro-autonomy but not secessionist, and yet support for independence has grown very rapidly. He emphasized that it is social pressure that is currently driving the actions of political elites since the pro-independence movement is run by civic entities rather than political parties, and they have tremendous mobilisation capacity, as seen in recent demonstrations. For Dowling, the Spanish Constitutional Court’s rejection of enhancements to the Catalan regional autonomy statute in 2010 marked a turning point in Catalonia when pro-independence sentiments began to surge. The economic crisis that predated it meanwhile served to accelerate an already existing and growing sense of dissatisfaction. But these developments must be seen within the context of longer-term, structural processes. To understand where the pro-independence movement in Catalonia came from, Dowling therefore outlined political, social and economic changes from the twentieth century onwards which have contributed to the Catalans’ perceived grievances, in the main section of his presentation as follows:

Dr Andrew Dowling, Professor Richard Gillespie, Professor Michael Keating

Scotland-Catalonia Symposium on 21st November

On Thursday 21st November 2013, the Europe and the World Centre at the University of Liverpool will host the following symposium:

‘Has the Independence Bubble Burst? The Prospects of Statehood for Scotland and Catalonia’

With preparations being made for the referendum on independence in Scotland next year, a battle is now underway over holding a similar consultation in Catalonia, which has seen mass mobilisations in favour of a ‘right to decide’ on the question of sovereignty. What are the prospects of Scotland and Catalonia becoming independent? What is the significance of these events for Europe and the EU?


Michael Keating

Professor of Politics and ESRC Senior Fellow at the University of Aberdeen, specialising in nationalism, European politics, regional politics and devolution. Books include The Independence of Scotland (Oxford University Press, 2009).

Andrew Dowling

Lecturer in Catalan and Spanish History at the University of Cardiff, author of Catalonia since the Spanish Civil War (Sussex Academic Press, 2012).

All are welcome to attend

Date and time: Thursday 21st November, 2.00-5.00pm

Location: University of Liverpool Management School (ULMS), Seminar Room 4 – building 427 on campus map available here:

Liverpool University Campus Map

Click here for event poster NEW DATE

Project Outline and Call for Proposals

Welcome to the Nationalisms in Spain blog. This site has been designed to provide information about the ESRC-funded research project on ‘The Dynamics of Nationalist Evolution in Contemporary Spain’ directed by Professor Richard Gillespie (University of Liverpool). As part of the project, a first workshop on ‘Nationalisms in Spain’ will be held in late September 2014 and proposals for papers are welcome, deadline 4 October 2013. Please see the following document for details of the project, workshop and call:

Nationalisms in Spain. Project Outline and Call for Proposals

All those interested in the project are also encouraged to subscribe to this blog for email updates (by using the option to ‘follow blog via email’) since this will be used henceforth to provide all relevant information, including about events.