Spanish PM rejects Catalan calls for greater tax powers
Move could push north-eastern region towards demanding independence as polls show separatist support climbing
The Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, roundly rejected attempts by the Catalan government to win greater tax-raising powers on Thursday‚ potentially pushing the wealthy north-eastern region towards demanding independence.
Afterwards the Catalan regional leader, Artur Mas, said: “A historic opportunity has been lost.” Mas was expected to return to Catalonia and decide within weeks on a date for fresh regional elections which are likely to see his nationalist Convergence and Union coalition run on a more openly separatist programme, as polls show support for independence climbing above 50%.
A separatist majority in the Catalan parliament would provoke a constitutional crisis as Spain tries to cope with double-dip recession, 25% unemployment and, potentially, a bailout by fellow eurozone countries.
Mas wanted a change in the tax system as a step towards increasing tax flows into Catalonia. It would have seen the Catalan government collecting taxes and sending a share to central government, rather than the other way around.
“The prime minister opposed the proposal … because it is incompatible with the Spanish constitution,” Mr Rajoy’s office said in a statement. Mas disagreed. “You cannot hold the constitution up as a wall,” he said, claiming it had been written in the shadow of General Francisco Franco’s dictatorship and at a time of fear of military coups.
Spain’s 1978 constitution does not provide for the independence of Catalonia or any other region.
Pictured: Marchers wave Catalonian nationalist flags on Catalan National Day in Barcelona. Photograph: Albert Gea/REUTERS