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