At one time, most of the attention on Spain was focused on the Basque Region. However, for the past decade, it’s Catalonia that’s taken the limelight.
The problem really came to the fore in June 2010, when the Spanish Supreme Court ruled that elements of a 2006 Spanish law granting greater autonomy to Catalonia, the country’s second-largest province, were unconstitutional.
This then prompted mass demonstrations. In the years that followed, support for a vote on independence grew. Following an election in 2015, the Catalan leadership organized a referendum on independence on 1 October 2017.
Despite strong opposition from the Spanish government, 43% of the electorate turned out to vote. Of this, 93% supported independence. 10 days later, on 10 October, the President of Catalonia declared that Catalonia was independent – but immediately put the declaration on hold pending talks with Spain.
After Madrid refused discussions, the Catalan parliament unilaterally declared independence on 27 October 2017. In response, the Spanish Government immediately suspended Catalonia’s autonomy and imposed direct rule.
Within days, the effort to secede collapsed, and, in October 2019, nine leaders of the attempted secession were jailed for 9-13 years for their role in the attempt to break away.
While a strong strand of pro-independent sentiment remains in Catalonia, it’s hard to see how Spain will permit a formal referendum on the issue any time soon.